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Llbrcr; Bure«u C^t. no. 1137 


General Editor : Ernest Newman 












First Published . . October yth igog 
Seco7id Edition . . igio 


To the inquiring student the ebb and flow of fashion 
in the world of music present phenomena of re- 
markable interest. The stone that the builders rejected 
becomes the head of the corner, and the idol of one age 
is trodden under foot by the next. A mute antagonism 
reigns between one generation and another, and the sons 
delight in nothing so much as in consigning the cherished 
treasures of their fathers to the dust-heap. This is the 
rough-and-ready process by which immortality, or what, 
according to Mr. Arthur Balfour, passes for such in the 
world of music, is ultimately achieved, and even the 
greatest composers have to submit to it. For a musician 
to please his own age is no very severe test. At any 
given point in the history of music successful composers 
may be counted by the hundred. But their day is brief. 
Fashion turns her wheel, and the favourites of an hour 
sink into oblivion. Then comes the final test. Will the 
fallen god be lifted from the mire and restored to his 
old splendour ? Will the dead musician be rediscovered 
by a later generation and live a second life in their new- 
born love and veneration ? A second life it must be, for 
the first is dead for ever. A man's work can never mean 


to a later age what it meant to the men of his own time. 
But it is characteristic of great art that it carries a 
message to every generation in turn. We can all find in 
it something to suit our own idiosyncrasies. It may be 
something entirely different from what our forefathers 
found, but it is none the less valuable and none the less 
true on that account. 

What the music of Handel meant to the men of his 
own time it is now difficult to say, but we know well 
enough what it meant to our fathers and grandfathers. To 
them Handel was the musician in ordinary to the Pro- 
testant religion. He had been taken over bag and 
baggage by the Church of England, Handel is himself 
partly responsible for the popular view of his genius. 
One of the most often quoted of his sayings relates to 
the production of The Messiah. Some one congratulated 
him upon having given the town a fine entertainment, 
whereupon he replied : " My lord, I wish not only to 
entertain them, but to make them better." This was a 
very natural and proper observation to make, but un- 
fortunately to the average Englishman to " be good " 
means only to go to church or chapel on Sunday 
morning and to conform externally to whatever form of 
Christianity happens to suit the exigencies of his tempera- 
ment ; and thus Handel's obiter dictum was gradually 
twisted into meaning that he wrote with a definitely 
evangelistic purpose, and in consequence he was held up 
as an example of a composer who had consecrated his 
genius to the service of rehgion. So widely was this 


view disseminated that in time even his secular works 
were claimed by the Church. In the year 1862 we find 
Dean Ramsay — an amiable divine usually credited with 
a sense of humour — declaring in a lecture on Handel 
that " Lascia ch'io pianga " was " like all Handel's fine 
Italian airs, essentially of a sacred character." 

This was the Handel that the present generation in its 
boyhood was expected to fall down and worship. No 
wonder that, like the enterprising youth in the nursery 
rhyme, we took him, metaphorically speaking, by the 
left leg and threw him downstairs, though in his case it 
was not because he wouldn't say his prayers, but because 
he would say them and nothing else. 

But even in those days there were a few who recognised 
the real Handel beneath the black gown and white tie in 
which his ecclesiastical friends had disguised him. In 
1863 Edward FitzGerald wrote : " Handel was a good old 
Pagan at heart, and, till he had to yield to the fashionable 
Piety of England, stuck to Opera and Cantatas, where 
he could revel and plunge and frolic without being tied 
down to Orthodoxy." Twenty years later Samuel Butler, 
the author of Erewhon, comparing Handel to Shakespeare, 
in the opening words of his Alps and Sanctuaries said : 
" It is as a poet, a sympathiser with and renderer of all 
estates and conditions whether of men or things, rather 
than as a mere musician, that Handel reigns supreme. . . . 
There has been no one to touch Handel as an observer of 
all that was observable, a lover of all that was lovable, 
a hater of all that was hateable, and, therefore, as a poet. 

viii HANDEL 

Shakespeare loved not wisely but too well. Handel 
loved as well as Shakespeare, but more wisely. He is 
as much above Shakespeare as Shakespeare is above 
all others, except Handel himself; he is no less lofty, 
impassioned, tender, and full alike of fire and love of 
play ; he is no less universal in the range of his sym- 
pathies, no less a master of expression and illustration 
than Shakespeare, and at the same time he is of robuster, 
stronger fibre, more easy, less introspective." 

In those days these were voices crying in the wilder- 
ness, yet a change was at hand. The year after Butler 
published his Alps and Sanctuaries appeared Rockstro's 
biography of Handel, in which the then traditional view 
of the composer was exaggerated to the verge of cari- 
cature. I am inclined to think that Rockstro's book 
dealt the death-blow to the Christian Handel. From that 
time forward a certain impatience of the national Handel- 
worship began to manifest itself, which, growing stronger 
year by year, has ended in practically dethroning Handel 
from the position that he occupied for so many years. 

There is no doubt that at the present time, in England 
at any rate, Handel is unpopular with those who are the 
mouthpieces of cultivated musical opinion. Dr. Ernest 
Walker, for instance, in his History of Music in Eng- 
land, though much of his criticism of Handel is very 
much to the point and is obviously derived from a 
careful study of his works (which is more than can be 
said for a good deal of modern Handelian criticism), says 
that " no other composer can even attempt to rival 


Handel in his power of intensely irritating those who 
have the strongest and sanest admiration for his genius," 
and talks light-heartedly about consigning the old idol to 
the rubbish-heap. I am well aware that many thousands 
of Englishmen habitually attend performances of TJie 
Messiah as a religious exercise, just as many thousands 
habitually go to church ; but you cannot for that reason 
call TJie Messiah popular as a work of art any more than 
you can call the Book of Common Prayer popular as a 
masterpiece of literature. If Handel were really popular, 
his other works would not be shelved so completely as 
they are. Thirty years ago Sainso7i, Solomon, Jephtha, 
Judas, and Joshua were frequently performed in London. 
Now they are practically unknown. No, the Handel of 
our forefathers is dead ; it remains for us to revive a new 
Handel from the ashes of the old. Handel the preacher 
is laid for ever in the tomb, but Handel the artist, with 
his all-embracing sympathy for human things and his 
delight in the world around him, lives for evermore. 

In spite of the obvious trend of modern criticism, I 
anticipate a return of popularity for Handel, or if not of 
popularity, at least of more general appreciation ; and, 
paradoxical as it sounds, this will be accomplished by 
the gradual acceptance of the theory of the poetic basis 
of music. For as the comprehension of the meaning of 
music grows, so will less and less value be attached 
to mere questions of form. At present the advocates 
of abstract music are sticklers for certain forms of 
music, and they maintain, I understand, that the interest 


of music lies in the manner in which these forms 
are used — they even talk of the " plot " of a symphonic 
movement, referring only to the development of the 
themes employed. When people have grasped the fact 
— and in time I have little doubt that they will grasp it 
— that it is what a man has to say that matters, and 
that the way he says it is comparatively unimportant, 
there is bound to be a reaction in favour of a man who 
had a great deal to say, even though the way in which he 
chose to say it now seems absolutely out of date. I 
know that this sounds as if it should apply chiefly to 
instrumental music, whereas Handel's most characteristic 
works are vocal. But though Handel set words to music, 
he often used the words merely as a peg to hang his 
ideas upon, or perhaps one should say as a spring-board 
from which to take dives into the infinite. I mean that 
in order to find his real meaning one often has to go 
behind the words to some remote idea lurking in the 
background, the existence of which a casual hearer 
might hardly suspect. I will give an instance of what I 
mean. Every one knows the famous air " Ombra mai 
fu" from the opera Serse^ which is played by every 
violin student in the kingdom in a vulgarised modern 
version usually described as " Handel's celebrated Largo." 
This air is sung by the hero Xerxes, who is standing 
beneath the boughs of his favourite plane tree. The 
words mean : " Never was the shade of aught that grows 
more grateful." I had known the air from childhood, 
but I confess that I never realised what Handel meant 


by it till I happened to stroll one Sunday evening last 
summer into Lincoln's Inn Fields at the hour when one 
of the excellent London County Council bands was 
playing in the gardens. I paused to listen under the 
shadow of a magnificent plane tree, broad and spreading 
as Xerxes's own, and as the familiar melody with its 
broad rich harmonies floated to my ears through the 
dense foliage I knew that it was the hymn of the tree 
that Handel was singing, not only of the plane tree 
beloved by Xerxes, but of that other tree, emblem of 
growth and strength and purity, that " bulk of spanless 
girth, which lays on every side a thousand arms and 
rushes to the sun." 

It is the inner meaning of Handel's music, and its 
power of searching the profoundest recesses of the soul, 
that in the following pages I have endeavoured, so far as 
I am able, to elucidate. Its merely technical qualities 
have already been discussed enough and to spare. Books 
on Handel written by musicians already abound, but 
musicians as a rule take more interest in the means by 
which an end is attained than in the end itself. They 
tell us a great deal about the methods by which a 
composer expresses himself, but very little about what 
he actually has to express. I have tried, how feebly and 
with what little success no one knows better than myself, 
to find the man Handel in his music, to trace his 
character, his view of life, his thoughts, feelings, and 
aspirations, as they are set forth in his works. That 
Handel, like other men, had his faults and weaknesses I 


readily admit. Writing as he did cun^ente calamo, he had 
not always time to weigh the worth of his ideas. He 
was content to employ certain conventional formulas 
and certain well-worn cadences, which to modern ears 
seem threadbare, and if a second-rate idea occurred to 
him he did not always wait for a first-rate one. Yet 
to me the mighty soul moving behind seems to give life 
to the driest of bones, and I feel the tremendous person- 
ality of the man even in his most perfunctory strains. 
Handel's warmest admirer could perhaps scarcely claim 
for him that he was a greater musician than Bach or 
Mozart or Beethoven. What he could claim, and I 
think with justice, would be that of all who have written 
music Handel was the greatest man. 

It remains for me to conclude with a tribute of 
gratitude to the authors from whose works I have derived 
assistance. To Friedrich Chrysander, whose biography 
of Handel stands alone as a monument of painstaking 
erudition, my debt is greatest. It is a grievous misfortune 
to the student of Handel that Chrysander's labours upon 
his great edition of Handel's works prevented him from 
carrying his biography beyond the year 1740. So far as 
it goes it is invaluable, and the points upon which I have 
ventured to differ from the learned historian are few in 
number and of no great importance. I have also been 
much helped by the biographies of Rockstro and 
Schoelcher and the more recent monographs of Dr. 
Hermann Kretzschmar and Dr. Fritz Volbach. With 
regard to Handel's Italian journey in 1706-10 Signer 


Ademollo's G. F. Haendel in Italia has been of the 
greatest assistance to me. To the other authorities that 
I have consulted due reference has been made in the 
body of the work, but I must mention with especial 
gratitude Mr. Randall Davies's English Society in the 
Eighteenth Century, which gives so admirable a picture of 
London life during the Handelian epoch. 

My warmest thanks are due to the Earl of Shaftesbury 
for permitting me to make use of the MS. record of 
Handel's operatic career compiled by his ancestor the 
fourth Earl, which is now among the Shaftesbury papers 
in the Record Office; and to the Earl of Malmesbury 
for his kindness in allowing me to publish a reproduction 
of his portrait of Handel by Mercier, which was painted 
about the year 1748 and is undoubtedly the most lifelike 
and characteristic presentment of the composer that has 
come down to us. It is impossible for me to thank by 
name all the friends who have helped me in my work, 
but I must record my gratitude to Mr. Montgomery 
Carmichael, H.M. Consul at Leghorn, to Senhor Manoel 
de Carvalhaes, and to Dr. Guido Biagi, the Keeper of the 
Laurentian Library at Florence, for the kind assistance 
that they gave me in my attempt to unravel the history 
of the production of Handel's Rodrigo. 

August 1909 


I. Handel at Halle, 1685-1703 
II. Handel at Hamburg, 1703-1706 . 

III. Handel in Italy, 1706-1710 

IV. Handel's First Visit to England, 1710-1711 
V. Handel's Second Visit to England, 1712-1717 

VI. Canons and the Royal Academy of Music 

1718-1726 ..... 
VII. Faustina and Cuzzoni, 1726-1728 . 
VIII. Handel as Manager, 1728- 1732 
IX. Struggles and Defeats, i 732-1 737 
X. Ecce Convertimur ad Gentes ! 1737-1741 
XI. Handel in Ireland, 1741-1742 
XII. The Second Bankruptcy, 1742-1745 

XIII. The Turn of the Tide, 1745-1751 

XIV. Handel's Blindness and Death, 1751-1759 
XV. The Operas ..... 

XVI. Oratorios and other Choral Works . 

XVII. The Messiah . 

XVIII. The Later Oratorios 

XIX. Instrumental Works 

Appendix A . 

Appendix B 

Appendix C . 

Index . 














Handel ....... Frontispiece 

From a Portrait by Mercier in the possession of the Earl of Malmesbury 


The Queen's Theatre ..... 50 

From a Water-Colour Drawing by W. Capon 

The Landing of Senesino ..... 86 

From a Contemporary Engraving 

CuzzoNi AND Faustina ..... 99 

From a Contemporary Engraving 

CuzzoNi, Farinelli and Heidegger . . .129 

From a Drawing by the Countess of Burlington 

Vauxhall Gardens, with Roubiliac's Statue of 

Handel ....... 149 

From a Contemporary Engraving 

Frost Fair on the Thames. . . . .156 

From a Contemporary Engraving 

Vauxhall Gardens ...... 202 

From a Drawing by Rowlandson 

CuzzoNi, Senesino and Berenstadt . . . 239 

From an Engraving after Hogarth 

Handel ........ 269 

From a Portrait by Thornhill in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 

Facsimile of Handel's " Hunting Song " . . 303 

From an Autograph in the possession of Mrs. Legh, of Adlington 
Hall, Cheshire 

Handel ........ 337 

From an Engraving after a Portrait by Hudson 


HANDEL AT HALLE, 1685-1703 

THE political and religious wars of the seventeenth 
century, so fertile and far-reaching in their issues, 
accomplished nothing more important for the future of 
European society than the elevation of the middle class to 
the rank of a power in the state. In England the Civil 
War stamped out the last traces of feudalism, in Germany 
the Thirty Years' "War, though less sweeping in its ap- 
parent results, cleared the field quite as effectively. At 
the close of the struggle the burgher class awoke to the 
fact that it was practically its own master. The bogey of 
the Church was exorcised, the fangs of the aristocracy 
were drawn. A Frederick the Great and a Maria Theresa 
were still possible, but the command of the body politic 
had passed from the belly to the brain. The results of 
this social revolution, for so it practically was, were not 
immediately perceptible, but the habit of self-reliance and 
the acquired faculty of independent thought and judgment 
bore rich fruit in the ensuing generation. From the loins 
of the sturdy race that had won its way to liberty by 
blood and iron sprang the giants who were to build the 
shining citadel of German art. Only a line of heroes — 
mute, inglorious heroes, it may be, but heroes none the 


less — could father such a man as George . Frederick 

The Handel family originally belonged to Breslau, but 
early in the seventeenth century the coppersmith Valentine 
Handel migrated to Halle. His youngest son George, 
the composer's father, was born in 1622. George began 
life as a barber, but like many of his craft blossomed into 
a surgeon. His fortune was made by a lucky operation 
performed in 1660 upon Duke Augustus of Saxony, who 
in gratitude appointed him " Geheimer Kammerdiener 
und Leibchirurgus," which being interpreted is Groom of 
the Chamber and Private Surgeon, In 1665 he bought the 
house Am Schlamme, now famous as the birthplace of 
George Frederick. The latter, who was the second son of 
his father's second wife, Dorothea Taust, was born on the 
23rd of February 1685, and was baptized on the following 

Halle in 1685 was in some ways but a shadow of its 
past self. It had been for many years the favourite 
residence of Duke Augustus, who ruled over the arch- 
diocese of Magdeburg in the name of his father, John 
George, the Elector of Saxony. His court at the Moritz- 
burg, if not the most dazzling, was one of the most artistic 
in Germany. The Halle theatre had been famous not only 
for its history — for it was one of the earliest to cultivate 
the German Singspiel as opposed to the fashionable 
Italian opera of the day — but also for \\.% personnel, since 
on its staff were to be found many of the most illustrious 
musicians of the time. Records survive, too, of court 
festivities of no common splendour, of ballets, tournaments, 
and spectacles, which prove that life at Halle was 
something very different from the trivial round of the 
ordinary German provincial town. But in 1680, after the 


death of Duke Augustus, all this gaiety came to an 
abrupt conclusion. In accordance with the terms of the 
Peace of Westphalia, Halle was handed over to the Elec- 
torate of Brandenburg, and the young Duke Johann Adolf 
of Saxe-Weissenfels, who succeeded his father, transferred 
his court to Weissenfels. The muses fled from the banks 
of the Saale, and Halle relapsed from courtly splendour 
into the dull monotony of burgherdom. Yet though the 
glory of Halle had departed, the quaint old town upon 
which Handel's eyes opened was not without its charm. 
The Moritzburg, not yet degraded into a Calvinistic 
church, still frowned down upon the city in stately 
splendour; the mysterious Rothe Thurm and the stone 
Roland still whispered the secrets of the Middle Ages to 
a later and more prosaic race ; and from the towers ot 
Our Lady's Church the sweet-voiced bells still chimed the 
evening hymn, that to the ears of the infant musician must 
have sounded like a message from another world. 

The chief authority for the events of Handel's child- 
hood is the memoir by the Rev. John Mainwaring, which 
was published in 1760, a year after Handel's death. 
Mainwaring did not himself know Handel, but he collected 
his anecdotes from those who did, particularly from John 
Christopher Smith, who had been Handel's secretary and 
was the son of one of his oldest friends, and, if due allow- 
ance is made for the legendary atmosphere that invariably 
gathers round the head of an illustrious man, there is no 
particular reason for doubting the general truth of his 
statements, though his details are often obviously pure 
romance and his chronology is not to be relied on. 
According to Mainwaring, therefore, the future composer 
" from his very childhood discovered such a strong pro- 
pensity to Music, that his father, who always intended him 


for the study of Civil Law, had reason to be alarmed." 
His alarm took the practical shape of consigning to the 
flames all the musical toys, drums, trumpets, and so forth, 
with which the boy had filled his nursery. George 
Frederick himself was packed off to school, although he 
cannot very well have been more than five or six years 
old. However, in spite of parental sternness, he was not 
altogether severed from his beloved music. He contrived, 
with the aid of an amiable relative, possibly his mother 
or the aunt Anna who we learn from the baptismal 
register was his godmother, to smuggle a clavichord- 
doubtless one of the miniature sort which could be carried 
under the arm— into a garret at the top of the house. 
Thither in the stillness of the night the tiny boy would 
creep and practise to his heart's content, while the rest 
of the household was wrapt in slumber. No better instru- 
ment for these nocturnal concerts could have been devised 
than the clavichord, with its sweet muffled tone, which is 
barely audible a few yards from the instrument itself. 
From early association the clavichord should have been 
dear to Handel,— as dear as it undoubtedly was to Bach,— 
yet he seems to have written nothing for it, at any rate 
nothing has survived. 

The next recorded event of Handel's childhood took 
place, according to Mainwaring, when he was seven years 
old. 'At Weissenfels, some forty miles from Halle, 
occupying a subordinate position in the household of 
Duke Johann Adolf, dwelt George Christian, a grandson 
of old George Handel of Halle, sprung from his first 
family, and a full ten years older than his little half-uncle 
George Frederick. Thither, in spite of his seventy odd 
years, George Handel proposed to go to visit his grandson, 
and to pay his respects to the Duke. Boylike, his little 


seven-year-old son wanted to go too, and, in the words of 
Mainwaring, " finding all his solicitations ineffectual, he 
had recourse to the only method which was left for the 
accomplishment of his wish," that is to say, he ran after 
the chaise as well as he was able, contrived to get picked 
up when he was too far from Halle to be sent back alone, 
made his peace with his father, and drove to Weissenfels 
in triumph. At Weissenfels the stars in their courses 
fought his battles for him. His astounding precocity won 
the hearts of all the musicians in the Duke's orchestra, 
and the Duke, who happened to hear the boy playing the 
organ in the chapel one day after service, talked seriously 
to his father about devoting him to the musical profes- 
sion. Old Handel stood out as firmly as he could in 
favour of a legal career, but the Duke was too much for 
him. Doubtless the precedent of Schutz was quoted, who 
had died at Weissenfels some twenty years before. 
Schutz had begun life by studying law, but ere long had 
yielded to the seductions of music, with such results as 
even the obstinate old surgeon could scarce cavil at. In 
the end he gave way, and promised that his boy should be 
allowed to study music when he got home again. He 
kept his word, and when they were safely back at Halle 
he submitted George Frederick to the instructions of 
Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, the organist of the Liebfrauen- 
kirche, while insisting that at the same time he should 
continue his school work just as before. 

Zachow was at that time about thirty years old, and a 
fair average specimen of the cantor of the period. A few 
of his works have survived to our day, and show talent 
and sound musicianship if not genius. The man himself 
we may judge to have been worthy and conscientious. 
Handel was not a man who suffered fools gladly, yet he 


retained his regard for Zachow to the end of his days. 
He spoke of him invariably with affection and gratitude, 
and he supported his widow in her old age. Zachow was 
evidently a believer in hard work. It is said that he re- 
quired his pupil to produce a church cantata every week. 
Handel himself admitted, according to Burney, that he 
worked " like a devil " in those days. This was said d 
propos of a set of trios for two hautboys and bass, which 
was discovered by Lord Polwarth in Germany many 
years afterwards. He brought them to England and they 
were shown to Handel, who recognised them at once as a 
production of his boyhood. If they are the trios printed 
by Chrysander in the Handel-Gesellschaft edition, they 
are the best possible proof of Handel's astounding pre- 
cocity. As a specimen of the work of a boy of ten years 
old they stand alone in the history of music. Even 
Mozart wrote nothing at that age that can be compared 
with them for freshness of melody and maturity of 
musicianship. Of Handel's other works written at this 
time little has survived. An interesting record of his 
studies with Zachow, in the shape of a volume of extracts 
from the works of his contemporaries, dated 1698, was 
known to exist so late as the year 1799, but all trace 
of it has now disappeared. It would have been doubly 
valuable if it had proved that even at that early age 
Handel had already began the practice, which he carried 
in his later years to such extreme lengths, of adapting the 
work of his predecessors and contemporaries to his own 
use. Three years of hard work with Zachow gave Handel 
all the learning that his master could impart, as the latter 
himself confessed, and the boy looked round him for more 
worlds to conquer. Berlin was at that time the goal 
of every German musician's ambition. The Elector of 


Brandenburg, afterwards King Frederick I of Prussia, 
was a monarch of liberal tastes, and the Electress Sophia 
Charlotte ruled a court which would willingly have 
rivalled Versailles in its encouragement of art and artists. 
Thither Handel was taken by his father, probably in the 
year 1696. 

The Berlin with which he made acquaintance was, it 
need hardly be said, very different from the spacious and 
handsome city of to-day. It contained but twenty thou- 
sand inhabitants, and in its outward appearance seemed 
not far removed from the country village from which it 
originally sprang. Trees grew in the narrower streets, 
and swine grouted among the refuse that collected under 
the lime trees of the now famous Unter den Linden. 
Many of the houses were thatched with straw, and wooden 
chimneys added to the ever-present danger of fire. The 
countrified aspect of the town was accentuated by the 
fences and palings which still surrounded the houses. 
The lighting of the streets was characteristically managed. 
Every three houses had to provide a lantern, which was 
hung at night over the door of each one in turn. Till the 
very end of the seventeenth century there was no pretence 
at anything like a watchman in Berlin. The inhabitants 
were a quiet, law-abiding race, and the Berlin street-life 
was very different from that of London. No Mohock 
orgies troubled the placid banks of the Spree, and when 
the Elector instituted his new police, the good Berliners 
indignantly declared that they were quite capable of 
looking after themselves. But though the city of Berlin 
lingered in its primitive state of civilisation, the court 
was nothing if not advanced and cultured. The Electress 
Sophia Charlotte consoled herself for a loveless marriage 
by surrounding herself with scholars and artists. Her 


husband was a typical German soldier-monarch. He rose 
at 4 a.m., just the time when his wife went to bed, and 
worshipped etiquette a good deal more fervently than 
he worshipped God ; whereas Sophia Charlotte cared little 
for rules and regulations, and took a malicious pleasure 
in bestowing her patronage upon persons who were not 

The great literary light of the Berlin court was 
Leibniz, whose friendship with Sophia earned her the 
title of the Philosophic Queen, though it may be doubted 
whether she was quite as competent to act the part of 
Egeria to the great philosopher as her courtly flatterers 
tried to make her believe. At any rate, we find her 
writing in a petulant mood to a friend : " II traite tout si 
superficiellement avec moi. II se defie de mon genie, car 
rarement il repond avec precision sur les matieres que 

However, when Leibniz snubbed her, Sophia Charlotte 
could take refuge in music, for she was an accomplished 
performer on the harpsichord, and had collected a good 
library of music. She is said, too, to have dabbled in 
composition. In her younger days she had been a pupil 
of Steffani, who was Kapellmeister at the court of her 
father, the Elector of Hanover, and she remained his 
trusted friend all her life. 

Her husband, though not himself troubled by artistic 
leanings, liked to think that he was at the head of a 
cultivated court, and encouraged her artistic tastes. She 
invited celebrated musicians to Berlin, and organised 
operatic performances among her household. On one 
occasion she incurred the wrath of the court preacher by 
summoning one of her performers to a rehearsal from the 
communion table itself Possibly it was the same preacher 


who was refused admission to Sophia Charlotte's chamber 
when she lay on her death-bed some ten years later. 
" Laissez-moi mourir," whispered the poor lady to her 
attendants, " sans disputer." ^ 

On what pretext the youthful Handel went to Berlin 
is not clear, but probably his fame had overstepped the 
limits of his native town, and a sedulous courtier may 
have desired to gratify his royal patrons by introducing 
a new infant prodigy to their musical circle. Handel's 
visit to Berlin was an unqualified triumph. The Elector 
and Electress were at his feet in a moment. The bonds 
of etiquette dissolved in his presence, and the courtiers 
vied with each other in singing the praises of the wonder- 
ful child whose performance upon harpsichord and organ 
put to shame the grey-haired professors of music. 

The story of Handel's encounter with Bononcini and 
Ariosti at the court of Sophia Charlotte must be regret- 
fully dismissed to the limbo of legend. Mainwaring 
relates with a profusion of detail how the gentle Ariosti 
welcomed the boy with rapture, applauded him with 
sincere delight, and held him on his knee for hours together 
while they talked of music and her inexhaustible treasures.^ 

Bononcini, on the other hand, we are told, stood 

^ Erman, J. P., Mimoires pour sefvir ^ Vhistoire de Sophie Charlotte, 
Heine de Frusse, Berlin, 1801, 8° ; Hahn, W., Friedrick, der erste Kdnig in 
Preussen, Berlin, 185 1, 8°. 

* Ariosti is usually described by his contemporaries as an amiable and 
unambitious man. An epigram, however, by Paolo Rolli, published in his 
Marziale in Albion (1776), gives a less attractive view of his character. It 
may be roughly translated as follows : — 

" Here lies Attilio Ariosti — 
He'd borrow still, could he accost ye. 
Priest to the last, whate'er betide, 
At others' cost he lived — and died." 


sullenly aloof, ignoring the boy when possible, and when 
he was compelled to notice his existence, presenting him 
with the most difficult test of musicianship that he could 
devise — a cantata bristling with chromatic harmonies, 
which the lad was to accompany at sight from the figured 
bass. Handel fulfilled the task with complete success, 
and Bononcini was forced to admit his young rival's 
attainments, but he nursed his jealous envy in secret, and 
when they met many years afterwards, memories of 
Berlin added rancour to his hatred of the man who had 
vanquished him in London. 

All this, unfortunately, is pure romance. As Handel's 
father died early in 1697, the Berlin visit cannot have 
taken place later than 1696. Modern research has dis- 
covered that Ariosti did not reach Berlin until the spring 
of 1697, and Bononcini not until 1702. It is just possible 
that when Handel left Halle in 1703 he may have passed 
through Berlin on his way to Hamburg. In that case 
he would probably have met both Ariosti and Bononcini, 
and possibly may have submitted to Bononcini's test. In 
any case, the romantic picture of the youthful Handel 
sitting upon Ariosti's knee must be abandoned, for it 
would have needed a man of stouter build than the frail 
little Italian abate to nurse an eighteen-year-old stripling 
of Handel's sturdy build.^ 

The Elector gave the boy more than barren eulogy. 
Wishing like a true Maecenas to attach so brilliantly 
gifted a genius to his own court, he offered to send him 
at once to complete his education in Italy, and on his 
return to give him a suitable position at Berlin. But 

^ Ebert, Attilio Ariosti in Berlin, Leipzig, 1905 ; " Briefe der Konigin 
Sophie Charlotte von Preussen." {Publikationen aiis den K. Pretissischen 
StaatsarcJuveit, Bd. 79.) 


the tough old surgeon at Halle was as obstinate as ever. 
He still dreamed of legal honours for his Benjamin, and 
we may hope, too, that parental affection had something 
to do with his prompt refusal of the suggestion that he 
should part with the child of his declining years. At any 
rate the royal bounty was uncompromisingly declined, 
and we may be glad of it, for the mere thought of Handel, 
the proudest spirit that ever wrote music, as a pensioner 
of royal charity, even at an age when refusal or acceptance 
did not rest with him, has something repulsive about it. 

Handel, however, was to owe nothing to the favours of 
the great, and his father's rejection of the Elector's offer 
was the signal for the boy's return to Halle. After his 
taste of the splendours of the court, it must have been 
difficult for the lad to settle down to the common tasks 
of his life at Halle. But all thoughts of leaving home 
were banished from his mind by the death of his father 
at the age of seventy-five in 1697, which left him and 
his two little sisters dependent upon his mother. Frau 
Dorothea was fully equal to the task of bringing up her 
young family. The amiable divine who preached her 
funeral sermon enlarged upon her " pleasant gifts of mind 
and body, and her talent in ruling her household " ; but 
funeral sermons have little weight as evidence, and the 
best tribute to the good lady's educational system lies 
in the character of her son, and in the strong affection 
which he bore her until the day of her death. 

Five years now passed rapidly over Handel's head — 
five years of schooling at the Gymnasium, and of counsel 
if not precisely of instruction from Zachow, for whom he 
often acted as assistant. In February 1702 he matriculated 
at the University of Halle, which had been founded only a 
few years before, as a " Studiosus Juris," or student of law. 


But, however conscientiously Handel strove to fulfil his 
father's wishes as to his career, the muse was not to be 
denied. During his later schooldays he must have made 
considerable progress in music, since to Telemann (him- 
self a rising composer who passed through Halle in 1701 
and made Handel's acquaintance) he was " the already 
accomplished George Frederick Handel."^ 

Hardly had he entered the university when an event 
occurred which threatened to interfere very seriously with 
his legal studies, that is to say, he received the appoint- 
ment of organist at the Schlosskirche, the second church 
in Halle. The salary was fifty thalers and an official 
residence in the Moritzburg, which was sub-let at sixteen 
thalers a year. He was to serve a probation of twelve 
months, not because of any doubt as to his musical 
capacity, but in order that the Calvinist congregation 
might make up their minds whether they could endure 
to have their hymn tunes played to them by a staunch 
Lutheran. Handel's duties were not merely to play the 
organ at all the services, but to see that the instrument 
was kept in proper repair and working order, to compose 
psalm tunes and cantatas for all Sundays and festivals, 
and to ensure their proper performance. 

There is no reason to suppose that Handel failed in 
any of these duties — indeed he had plenty of time not 
only to keep up an animated correspondence with his 
friend Telemann, who was now established at Leipzig 
but to pay him occasional visits, probably at the ducal 
court of Weissenfels, for which Telemann, stripling as he 
was, wrote no fewer than four operas.^ At Halle, too 
Handel's official tasks were not onerous enough to satisfy 
his fiery spirit, and he induced some of his university 

^ Mattheson, Gruitdlage eiuer Ehren-Pforte, s.v. Telemann. 


comrades to form a voluntary choir, so as to give per- 
formances on Wednesdays and Saturdays of vocal and 
instrumental music, of a more elaborate nature than was 
admissible on Sundays. It may well be imagined that 
many of his own compositions first saw the light under 
these conditions, but of the music that he wrote at this 
period but little has survived. 

A setting of the Laudate Pueri for soprano solo is 
undoubtedly authentic, and contains many characteristic 
touches. One of the melodies is a kind of early sketch 
for " O had I Jubal's lyre," and another with its repeti- 
tion of a single note has a kinship with the theme 
of " Blessing, glory, wisdom, and power," in TJie 

There exist also two oratorios dating from this period 
which have been attributed to Handel, Die ErWsung des 
Volks Gottes aus Egypten and Der ungerathene So/in, 
and a church cantata, Ach Herr, mich armen Sunder, 
but though Chrysander was inclined to accept the cantata 
as genuine, he did not include it in his great edition, and 
the consensus of critical opinion is against the authenticity 
of all three works. Handel's term of office at the Schloss- 
kirche was but a short one. Ere his year of probation 
had expired, he was sighing for fresh woods and pastures 
new. He had stuck manfully to his legal studies for 
many years, but as he drew near to manhood his natural 
genius asserted itself He felt that music was his vocation, 
and knew that his duty called him to the service of 
art rather than to the dull round of slavery to which his 
father had destined him. He felt, too, that Halle was 
too narrow a field for his genius. He needed a wider 
horizon and ampler skies. So Pegasus burst from his 
harness, and sought the viewless fields of air. One fine 


summer morning Handel left Halle behind him, and 
turned his steps northward. It was not without a pang, 
we may be sure, that he relinquished the scene of boy- 
hood's dreams and struggles, for he was leaving behind 
him his mother and sisters and others perhaps who were 
dear, but the call of life had sounded, the immortal 
longings would not be stifled, and the boy, full of ardent 
hope and glowing ambition, hastened away to take his 
place in the great battle of life. 


HAMBURG at the opening of the eighteenth century- 
stood apart from the other great cities of Germany. 
Its isolated position had not only saved it from the terrors 
of the Thirty Years' War, but had induced many wealthy 
citizens from other towns to take refuge within its walls. 
Strengthened thus in substance and consideration, it had 
an advantage over its rivals when peace at last came, and 
during the latter half of the seventeenth century it easily 
established itself as the chief trading centre of Germany. 
Its commercial prosperity reacted upon its social life. 
The wealthy burghers could afford to send their sons 
on the grand tour, and to educate their daughters in the 
age's best accomplishments. Thus, while many German 
towns were still lingering in the mists of medievalism, 
Hamburg boasted an almost Italian degree of culture. 
In 1678 a theatre was opened, in which the German 
tongue was for the first time employed for operatic 
purposes. At first the operas given were sacred, but 
though the range of subject was strictly limited, no 
bounds were placed upon the splendour of decorations 
and accessories. Contemporary writers vie with each 
other in describing the sumptuous scenery and dresses. 
Even the French critic Regnard was compelled grudgingly 


to acknowledge that " las operas n'y sont pas mal repre- 
sentes ; j'y ai trouve celui d' ' Alceste ' tres beau." 

As time went on, sacred operas gave way to secular, 
and the last sacred opera was performed in 1692. But 
before that date, opera, even in cultivated Hamburg, had 
to live down a good deal of prejudice and opposition. 
The pietistic pastors of the period undertook a new 
crusade against this latest snare of Satan. They 
fulminated against opera from their pulpits, they de- 
nounced it in the streets. So successful was their 
campaign that in 1684 they induced the civic council to 
order the closure of the theatre. But the triumph of 
blindness and bigotry was shortlived. In the following 
year the theatre was reopened, and ere long reached the 
zenith of its success under the auspices of Reinhard 
Keiser, who rose upon the Hamburg horizon in 1694. 

When Handel reached Hamburg in 1703 the decline 
had already begun. German opera was yielding its pride 
of place before the advance of the stranger. Not merely 
were operas given in Italian and French, but even 
German works were interspersed with Italian airs. The 
taste of the city, too, was not what it had been. Opera 
wavered between idle pomp and gross buffoonery, and 
Keiser, who had undertaken the management of the 
theatre in 1703, was dissipating his brilliant talents in 
riotous living and debauchery. Still, there was much for 
a boy of Handel's age to learn in Hamburg, and he 
plunged into the enchanted world of music with the 
eagerness of a neophyte. 

Soon after his arrival at Hamburg, Handel fell in with 
Johann Mattheson, one of the cleverest men of his time, 
who, though only four years older than Handel, was 
already a personage of considerable influence in Hamburg 


musical circles. Mattheson was everything by turns, and 
I nothing long. He sang at the opera, played in the 
I orchestra, was an organist, poet, and composer, and, in 
fact, was ready to turn his hand to anything. He is now 
, famous chiefly for his writings on music, of which one 
of the most entertaining is his Grimdlage einer Ehren-Pforte, 
a biographical dictionary of musicians of priceless value 
to students of the period, though it is always necessary 
in reading it to make allowance for Mattheson's inordinate 
vanity and his jealousy of rival composers. Of the youth- 
ful Handel he writes : " Handel came to Hamburg in the 
summer of 1703, rich only in ability and goodwill. I was 
almost the first with whom he made acquaintance. I took 
him round to all the choirs and organs here, and introduced 
him to operas and concerts, particularly to a certain house 
where everything was given up to music. At first he 
played second violin in the opera orchestra, and behaved 
as if he could not count five, being naturally inclined 
to a dry humour. (I know well enough that he will laugh 
heartily when he reads this, though as a rule he laughs 
but little. Especially if he remembers the pigeon-fancier, 
who travelled with us by the post to Lubeck, or the 
pastrycook's son who blew the bellows for us when we 
played in the Maria Magdalena Church here. That was 
the 30th July, and on the 15th we had been for a water- 
party, and hundreds of similar incidents come back to me 
as I write). But once when the harpsichord player failed 
to appear he allowed himself to be persuaded to take his 
place, and showed himself a man — a thing no one had 
before suspected, save I alone. At that time he composed 
very long, long airs, and really interminable cantatas, 
which had neither the right kind of skill nor of taste, 
i though complete in harmony, but the lofty schooling 


of opera soon trimmed him into other fashions. He was 
strong at the organ, stronger than Kuhnau in fugue and 
counterpoint, especially ex tempore} but he knew very 
little about melody till he came to the Hamburg operas. 
At that time he came nearly every day and took his 
meals at my father's house, and he gave me many hints 
about counterpoint. I helped him, too, in the dramatic 
style, so one hand washed the other. 

" On the 17th of August in the same year we journeyed 
to Lubeck, and in the carriage made many double fugues 
da mente non da penna. I had been invited by Magnus von 
Wedderkopp, the president of the council, to compete for 
the post of successor to the renowned organist Dietrich 
Buxtehude. and I took Handel with me. We played on 
almost all the organs and harpsichords in the place, and 
made an agreement, which I have mentioned in another 
place, that he should only play the organ and I only the 
harpsichord. However, it turned out that there was some 
marriage condition proposed in connection with the 
appointment, for which we neither of us felt the smallest 
inclination, so we said good-bye to the place, after havmg 
enjoyed ourselves extremely, and received many gratifymg 

tributes of respect." 

In another book Mattheson makes a further reference 
to Handel's early days at Hamburg: "There is a world- 
renowned man, who when he first came to Hamburg only 
knew how to make regular set fugues, and imitations were 
as new to him as a foreign tongue, and as difficult. No one 

1 In his Critica Musica (i. 326) Mattheson makes special reference to 
Handel's talent for improvisation : " And among the younger men I have not 
found one who has such readiness as Herr Capellmeister Handel, not only 
in composition but also in extemporisation, as I have hundreds of times heard 
with my own ears in the greatest amazement and admiration. 


knows better than I how he used to bring me his first 
opera scene by scene, and every evening would take my 
opinion about it — and the trouble it cost him to conceal 
the pedant ! Let no one be surprised at this. I learned 
from him just as he learned from me. Docendo enhn 
discimusy ^ 

The friendship between Handel and Mattheson lasted 
for some time after their Lubeck adventure, and Mattheson 
in his Ehren-Pforte quotes an affectionate letter written 
to him by Handel in 1704. But later in the year matters 
became somewhat strained between the two friends 
though their quarrel did not break forth into open 
wrath until the 5th of December, at a performance of 
Mattheson's opera Cleopatra, in which Handel played the 
harpsichord and Mattheson himself sang the principal 
part. But we will let Mattheson tell his own story : " I 
as composer directed the performance and also sang the 
part of Antony, who has to die a good half-hour before 
the end of the opera. Hitherto" {i.e. at the previous 
performances, Cleopatra having been produced on Oct. 20) 
" I had been accustomed after finishing my part to go into 
the orchestra and accompany the remaining scenes, and 
this is a thing which incontestably the composer can do 
better than any one else. However, on this occasion 
Handel refused to give up his place. On this account we 
were incited by some who were present to engage in a 
duel in the open market-place, after the performance was 
over, before a crowd of spectators — a piece of folly which 
might have turned out disastrously for both of us, had not 
my blade splintered by God's grace upon a broad metal 
button on Handel's coat. No harm came of the encounter, 
and we were soon reconciled again by the kind influences 

^ Critica Musica, i. 243. 


of a worthy councillor and the manager of the theatre. 
Whereupon I entertained Handel at dinner on that very- 
day, the 30th of December, after which we went together 
to the rehearsal of his opera Alinira, and were better friends 
than ever." 

What the rights and wrongs of the quarrel actually 
were it is now of course impossible to say, but there is 
no particular reason to suppose, as all Handel's previous 
biographers have taken for granted, that the fault rested 
entirely with Mattheson. 

Mainwaring actually falsifies chronology so as to make 
Handel out to be a lad of fourteen at the time of the duel, 
and speaks of that historic event as an " assassination 
more than a rencounter," while Rockstro cannot speak too 
bitterly about Mattheson's effrontery, treachery, and so 
forth, whereas the saintly Handel is " too good a Christian 
to bear malice," and altogether behaves in a manner that 
would at once qualify him for admission into the angelic 
choir. As a matter of fact, Handel was the last person 
in the world to play the part of an injured and long- 
suffering innocent, and in this quarrel, as in all others in 
which he was engaged, he probably gave as good as he 
got. The misunderstanding between the two friends 
seems to have originated in Mattheson's appointment, in 
October 1704, to the post of tutor to the son of John 
Wyche, the English envoy at Hamburg. Handel had 
previously been engaged to give the boy music lessons, 
but his duties not unnaturally ceased on Mattheson's 
appointment. Handel considered himself ill-used, and 
probably suspected Mattheson of underhand dealings. 
His suspicions may or may not have been well-founded, 
but there is no evidence to prove that Mattheson behaved 
badly. As to the trouble about the accompaniments to 


Cleopatra, Handel was evidently in the wrong, since he 
seems to have made no difficulty about giving up his 
place at the harpsichord to Mattheson before the fatal 
5th of December. As Mattheson had accompanied the 
closing scenes of the opera for more than six weeks on 
end, he certainly had every reason to feel aggrieved at 
Handel's sudden determination to stand upon his rights 
as cembalist. However, the matter is of little enough 
importance, especially as it ended in the friendly and 
comfortable manner above recorded. 

Meanwhile Handel's talents were winning wider and 
wider recognition. We have seen that by the autumn 
of 1704 he was seated in the conductor's chair at the 
harpsichord, in succession to Keiser, whose loose life was 
fast losing him popularity and employment in the city 
which a few years ago had been at his feet, and on the 
previous Good Friday he had produced his setting of the 
Passion according to St. John. This little work, though 
trifling compared to Handel's subsequent achievements, 
is specially interesting to us not only as being the earliest 
authentic composition of the composer that has survived 
to our day, but as the subject of one of the first and by 
no means the least elaborate essays in criticism that 
musical history can show. On the subject of Handel's 
Passion music, Mattheson is discreetly silent in his sketch 
of the composer's life published in his Ehren-P forte (1740), 
yet in his Critica Musica (1722) he printed a most venom- 
ous criticism of the work, treating it in the utmost detail 
and riddling it with every shot in his locker. What 
prompted this attack we cannot now say with certainty, 
unless it may have been Handel's repeated refusals to 
contribute a sketch of his career to Mattheson's 
Ehren-Pforte. A letter politely declining Mattheson's 


offer written in 17 19 is extant, which may well be the 
fons et origo mali. However that may be, Mattheson's 
criticism remains a ridiculous outburst of splenetic malice. 
No one would claim that Handel's early Passion is a 
masterpiece, or anything like one. With many faults of 
immaturity and inexperience, it has passages of remark- 
able freshness and beauty, and on the whole is rich in 
promise. Mattheson's onslaught upon the work, twenty 
years after its production, injured Handel's reputation 
as a composer far less effectually than it blackened 
Mattheson's character as a friend. 

But if the John Passion did little to spread Handel's 
fame, his next work, the opera Almira, lifted him at once 
to the front rank of living composers. The libretto was 
originally designed for Keiser, but the latter, between his 
duties as manager and the excesses of his private life, found 
little time for composing. However, he wanted a new 
opera for the winter season, so he passed the libretto on 
to Handel, little dreaming that in the youthful cembalist 
he was to find a rival who would seriously threaten his 
own supremacy.^ Almira, which was produced on the 
8th of January 1705, with Mattheson in the principal 
tenor part, was one of those strange mixtures of German 
and Italian which were popular in Hamburg at the time. 
Many of the Hamburg operas, including Ab)iira, were 
translated from the Italian, and it was usual to leave a 
certain number of solo numbers in the original for the 
sake of the singers who wanted to show off their voices 
to the best advantage, and fancied that they could do so 
more effectually in the liquid accents of the south. The 
audience, on the other hand, unlike opera-goers of to-day, 

^ F. A. Voigt, " Reinhard Keiser." {Vierteljahrsschrift fur Musikwissen- 
schaft, Jahrg. vi.) 


wanted to be able to follow the plot, so for their benefit 
the recitatives and the songs of the comic characters were 
translated into the vernacular. The result must have 
been somewhat surprising, but we must not be too hard 
upon Hamburg taste, for the same polyglot system was 
employed in London as well about that time. Almira 
was a triumphant success, and ran uninterruptedly until 
the 25th of February, when it was replaced by Handel's 
second opera Nero, a work of which the music has un- 
fortunately perished. Its freshness and originality charmed 
the ears that were weary of Reiser's waning talent, and 
its faults of inexperience were forgiven in the dazzling 
splendour of a sumptuous mounting. 

Almira made Handel many friends, and one enemy. 
Keiser alone looked on gloomily at his young comrade's 
success, and listened unwillingly to his praises. To such 
lengths did his jealousy carry him that he determined to 
challenge Handel's supremacy by setting the libretto of 
Almira himself. He did so, and produced his version in 
the following autumn with so little success, that very 
soon afterwards he shook the dust of Hamburg from his 
feet, and retired to the seclusion of his native village, a 
defeated and disappointed man. 

Meanwhile, the success of Almira turned Handel's 
thoughts to wider fields and ampler skies. Some years 
previously he had made the acquaintance of a man who 
was destined to exercise an important influence upon his 
career. This was Prince Giovanni Gastone dei Medici, 
the second son of Cosmo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, 
a man of most unsavoury reputation, whose thousand 
vices have so long been notorious that his one virtue 
— that of having turned Handel's thoughts to Italy — 
should in common kindness be given its proper place in 


history. Gian Gastone, as he was always called, who was 
born in 1671, was a man of truly Tuscan refinement, 
culture, and sensibility, though his morals were de- 
plorable. He was hardly more than a boy when his 
father, anxious for the Medici succession, hurried him 
into a loveless marriage with a princess of Saxe- 
Lauenburg, a woman homely of feature, excessively 
stout, coarse in nature and violent in temper, who cared 
for nothing but hunting, and loved animals more than 
men. Exiled from his beloved Florence to a castle in 
the wilds of Bohemia, linked to a virago whom he 
detested, Gian Gastone sank almost involuntarily into 
debauchery and turpitude. At times he would escape 
from the loathsome embraces of his gaoleress, and seek 
consolation in such dissipation as the neighbouring 
German cities could offer. It was no doubt but a poor 
substitute for the luxurious enchantment of Italy, but 
it was something to hear music and to meet men who 
could talk to him of other things than shooting birds or 
chasing stags. On one of these excursions fate led his 
steps to Hamburg. In the winter of 1703-4 he stayed 
there for several months, lost a great deal of money at 
play, and made friends with Handel. Gian Gastone was 
something of a musician himself In his younger days 
he had played the flute, and like a true Florentine he 
adored opera. It is easy to imagine with what eloquence 
he discoursed upon his lost fatherland, upon the art of 
Italy, and the magic of her wondrous sky. Handel 
listened with greedy ears, and within him rose longings 
for that enchanted land of the south, whose very name 
was music, where genius blossomed as it could never 
blossom in the mists of the northern ocean. Mainwaring's 
account of Handel's relations with Gian Gastone, which 


has been followed by subsequent biographers, is obviously 
sown with inaccuracies. He represents their acquaintance 
as dating from the production of Alniira, which is out 
of the question, since by the autumn of 1704 Gian Gastone 
was back in Bohemia trying his utmost to persuade his 
wife to accompany him to Florence.^ We may be pretty 
certain also that the Prince never offered to pay Handel's 
expenses on a trip to Italy. 

Gian Gastone wanted all the money he could lay 
hands upon for himself, and never was a man in a worse 
position for playing Maecenas to a promising young 
musician. He was always in debt, and his correspond- 
ence with his father is one long cry for money. As a 
matter of fact, while he was actually at Hamburg, his sister, 
the Electress Palatine, was moving heaven and earth on 
his behalf to raise money to pay his gaming debts, and 
before he could leave Prague for Italy in 1705 he had to 
raise a hundred thousand florins in order to satisfy his 
creditors. But if Gian Gastone was not in a position to 
play the princely patron, he could promise Handel a 
warm and kindly reception at his father's court whenever 
he was able to make the journey south. "With this object 
in view, Handel settled down to a course of steady work, 
in order to make the money necessary for the journey to 
Italy which he felt was necessary for his artistic develop- 
ment. After the production of Nero he seems to have 
had little to do with the theatre. Probably he found that 
he made more money by giving private lessons, and the 
atmosphere of envy, malice, and all uncharitableness which 
seems to have brooded permanently over the Hamburg 
theatre was no doubt distasteful to a man of his honest 
and straightforward character. Some time in 1706 he 

^ Robiony, Gli Ultimi del ATedici. 


wrote a third opera, Florindo und Daphne, which, however, 
was not produced until 1708/ when it was given in two 
sections on account of its extreme length. But by that 
time Handel was far away. 

The date of his departure from Hamburg is not known. 
Most likely it took place in the summer or early autumn 
of 1706, for Prince Gian Gastone was at that time staying 
in Florence, and it is reasonable to suppose that Handel 
would wish to be introduced to the Grand Ducal court 
under his friend's auspices. According to Mattheson, he 
travelled in company with another friend named von 
Binitz, who paid all his expenses. In all probability 
we shall not be far wrong if we picture Handel leaving 
Hamburg in July, paying a flying visit to his mother at 
Halle on his way south, entering Italy by the well-trodden 
Brenner route, and reaching Florence in September or 
October 1706. 

^ Mattheson, Der Musikalische Patriot. 

HANDEL IN ITALY, 1706-1710 

TUSCANY was groaning beneath the brainless and 
bigoted sway of the Grand Duke Cosmo III when 
Handel first set foot in Florence. The glorious traditions 
of Florentine art and science were a thing of the past, and 
the country was sunk in priest-ridden sloth, squalor, and 
poverty. Of all the arts, music alone received any en- 
couragement at the court, and this was due not to the 
Grand Duke, but to his eldest son Ferdinand, the Gran 
Principe, as he was always called, who was an excellent 
musician, and an enlightened and intelligent patron of the 
art. Ferdinand kept up the best traditions of the Medici 
family in this respect. All forms of music received his 
patronage, but to opera he was especially devoted. In 
his beautiful villa at Pratolino, high up in the lovely valley 
of the Mugnone, some dozen miles from Florence, he had 
built a magnificent theatre, where every year operatic 
performances were given under his auspices, that were 
the talk of all Italy. To Ferdinand music was a second 
religion. It was the guiding principle that regulated his 
life. Early in the autumn it was his custom to repair to 
Pratolino, where his villeggiatura was spent in the society 
of the choicest singers and musicians that Italy could 
produce. The opening of the Carnival drew him to 


Florence, where masquerades, festivals, and operatic per- 
formances alternated in a bewildering whirl of gaiety. 
From Florence he went to Pisa for hunting, and in the 
sultry days of summer he sought the sea-breezes of 
Leghorn, a city for which he had a special predilection, 
and whose theatre under his patronage became famous for 
the excellence of its operatic performances.^ Ferdinand 
was on the friendliest terms with Alessandro Scarlatti and 
other noted musicians of the day, indeed Scarlatti's letters 
to him which are preserved in the Arckivio Mediceo show 
that his musical culture was something far above that 
of the average dilettante princeling. We find Scarlatti 
thanking him for suggestions, and consulting him as to 
the composition of his operas in a manner very different 
from that in which the humble composer usually adopts 
in addressing his princely patron. To Ferdinand Handel 
was introduced by his friend Gian Gastone, who was in 
Florence from June 1705 to November 1706, and had 
doubtless given his brother a glowing description of the 
new musical genius whom he had discovered in far-away 
Hamburg, long before Handel had appeared upon the 

Handel probably reached Florence in the autumn of 
1706, and was no doubt speedily summoned to Pratolino, 
where Ferdinand was by that time established with his 
court. For three or four years Alessandro Scarlatti had 
been Ferdinand's favourite musician, and had had the 
honour of supplying Pratolino with its annual novelty, 
but in 1706 a coldness seems to have arisen between the 
composer and his Mjecenas, and he was succeeded in the 
latter's good graces by Perti. It is possible that during 

^ Anonymous MS. biography of Ferdinand in the possession of Mr. Herbert 


the interregnum Handel may have enjoyed a brief period 
of court favour. Ferdinand used to complain of the 
" melancholy" character of Scarlatti's operas, and possibly 
he turned to Handel in the hope of hearing something 
more vivacious. 

Handel's first opera, Rodrigo, was certainly written 
during his stay at Florence, and probably in response 
to a commission from Ferdinand, but no record of its 
production has survived. It is not mentioned by Allacci, 
whose Drainmaturgia (Venice, 1755) is a tolerably com- 
plete record of the Italian opera of the period, though he 
duly records the performance of a certain Rodei^ico, which 
was given in the presence of Ferdinand in 1692 by the 
Accademia degli Innominati. Very possibly it was the 
libretto of this opera which, according to the fashion of 
the time, was re-set by Handel. Had Rodrigo been given 
at Pratolino, some mention of it would almost infallibly 
have occurred in the Medicean archives. But Puliti, 
whose valuable Cenni storici della vita di Ferdinando del 
Medici gives an exhaustive catalogue of the musical works 
performed at Pratolino, knows nothing of the details ot 
its production, though he corrects Mainwaring's statement 
with regard to the present which Handel received in 
return for his opera. According to him it was Prince 
Ferdinand, and not the Grand Duke, who gave Handel 
a hundred sequins together with a service, not of silver, 
as Mainwaring states, but of porcelain. 

I had imagined that Rodrigo might have been performed 
at Leghorn, during one of Ferdinand's summer visits 
to the sea, but Mr. Montgomery Carmichael, who has 
investigated the matter with the utmost kindness and 
assiduity, assures me that this is not the case. Probably 
Rodrigo was produced in Florence itself. At that time 


the Teatro della Pergola was not used for opera, but the 
Teatro di Via del Cocomero (now the Teatro Niccolini) 
was open, and this may have been the scene of Rodrigds 
production. It is more likely, however, that it was 
privately performed in the Pitti Palace, as was the case 
with an opera called Enea in Italia, which was given there 
in 1698 in honour of the birthday of the Grand Duchess 

It is, of course, possible that the production of 
Rodrigo took place not on the occasion of Handel's first 
visit to Florence, but when he was there for the second 
time in the autumn of the same year on his way to Venice. 
Of this second visit we know but little, and in all prob- 
ability it was a short one. Handel was in Florence for 
the third time on his way to Venice in the autumn of 
1709 before leaving Italy altogether, but it is almost 
impossible that Rodrigo can have been performed then, 
owing to Ferdinand's bad health. On the whole, the 
probility is that Rodrigo was written in the autumn of 1706, 
and produced during the Carnival season of 1707. 

Rodrigo has proved a stumbling-block to Handel's 
biographers in many ways, not least in the romantically 
sentimental legend of Vittoria Tesi the singer, which has 
twined itself around the story of the opera's production, 
and which it is now my mournful duty to disprove. Let 
us trace the legend to its source. Mainwaring writes : 
" Vittoria, who was much admired both as an actress and 
a singer, bore a principal part in this opera. She was a 
fine woman, and had for some time been much in the good 
graces of His Serene Highness." The reverend gentleman 
then suggests that " Handel's youth and comeliness, joined 
with his fame and abilities in music, had made impressions 
on her heart." It will be observed that Mainwaring 


speaks of the lady merely as Vittoria. It was left for 
Chrysander to jump to the conclusion that the famous 
Vittoria Tesi was the singer in question, and under his 
fostering care the legend grew to ample proportions, so 
that the passion of la Tesi for Handel, her pursuit of him 
to Venice, and the triumphs that she there won in his 
Agrippina, are now part of the stock-in-trade of every 
hack musical historian. Neither Chrysander nor his 
copyists seem to have remembered the fact that Vittoria 
Tesi was a contralto, whereas the heroines in Rodrigo 
and Agrippina are both sopranos. But biographers are 
notorious sentimentalists, and in the supposed necessity of 
fitting out their hero with an appropriate love story such 
trifles as this are easily ignored. As a matter of fact, 
Vittoria Tesi at the date of the production of Rodrigo was 
precisely seven years old. Her baptismal register exists 
in Florence, and has been recently printed by Signer 
Ademollo,^ to whom is due all the credit of exploding 
Chrysander's absurd legend. Vittoria Tesi was born in 
1700, and did not make her debut until 1716, when she 
sang at Parma with the celebrated Cuzzoni in a pastoral 
entitled Dafne. The heroine of Rodrigo was a very 
different person — to wit, Vittoria Tarquini, familiarly 
called la Bovibace or Bambagia, a brilliant singer who had 
adorned Ferdinand's court since 1699, and had taken a 
promiment part in the operatic performances at Pratolino. 
As for la Bonibaces penchant for Handel, I am not inclined 
to treat it very seriously. She was a clever woman, and 
contrived to remain in the good graces of the Prince 
almost up to the day of her death. The story of her 
ousting a long-established favourite is told with much 
gusto in Luca Ombrosi's sketch of Ferdinand's career, 

^ Niiova Antologia, i6th July 1889. 


and evidently she knew far too well which side her bread 
was buttered to venture into a damaging liaison with a 
travelling musician. She did not sing in Agrippina, the 
cast of which is perfectly well known, and the story of 
her following Handel to Venice is obviously pure 

Soon after the production of Rodrigo, Handel started 
for Rome, intending doubtless to spend Holy Week 
and Easter there, in order to hear the world-famous 
music associated with the services of the Church. With 
regard to Handel's arrival at Rome we are on com- 
paratively safe ground. We know by the signed and 
dated autograph of a setting of the Dixit Dominus that 
he was there on 4th April 1707, and the autograph of 
a Laudate Pueri further assures us that he was still 
there on 8th July. The general impression of his 
biographers seems to be that he then returned to 
Florence, driven from Rome by the unhealthy climate of 
the summer and autumn months. But this theory is 
founded upon a delusion. In those days there existed 
no prejudice against the Roman summer, and the smart 
society of Rome braved the terrors of the dog-days with 
the utmost equanimity — indeed August seems to have been 
a favourite month for social festivities. ^ Moreover, con- 
clusive proof of Handel's presence in Rome during the 
summer months is furnished byan interesting letter now pre- 
served in the Medici archives, written in Rome on the 24th 
of September 1707.^ It is addressed by a certain Annibale 
Merlini to Ferdinand dei Medici, giving a description of a 
juvenile prodigy who was at that time the great musical 
sensation of the Eternal City. " He is a lad of twelve 

^ AdemoUo, I teatri di Roma, pp. 107, 165, etc. 
2 Archivio Mediceo, Filza 5897. 


years," writes Merlini, " a Roman by birth, who, though of 
so tender an age, plays the arciliiito with such science and 
freedom that if compositions he has never even seen are 
put before him he rivals the most experienced and cele- 
brated professors, and wins great admiration and well- 
deserved applause. He appears at the concerts and leading 
academies of Rome, as, for instance, at that of His Eminence 
Cardinal Ottoboni, and at that which continues daily for 
all the year at the Casa Colonna, and in the Collegio 
Clementine, and at these as in other public academies he 
plays a solo and in company with all kinds of virtuosi. 
And all this can be testified by the famous Saxon, v/ho has 
heard him in the Casa Ottoboni, and in the Casa Colonna 
has played with him, and plays there continually."^ 

In Rome, indeed, there was much to detain Handel. 
The composor of Rodrigo was a person of consideration, 
and Handel doubtless brought letters of introduction from 
his friends at Florence to the leaders of cultivated society in 
Rome. Of these Cardinal Ottoboni, the nephew of Pope 
Alexander Vlll, and the friend and correspondent of 
Ferdinand dei Medici, was the most famous and brilliant. 
Ottoboni was at that time a man of forty, handsome in 
feature, aristocratic in manner, profoundly versed in all 
the culture of the age and a devoted lover of music. He 
was enormously rich, his revenues from the various bene- 
fices that he held amounting to 80,000 scudi a year, 
exclusive of his private fortune. His charity was inex- 
haustible. He founded a free dispensary for the poor, 
entertained pilgrims at his own table, and inaugurated 
various benevolent institutions. But his pet hobby was 
his " Accademia poetico - musicale," to which Merlini 
refers. The aim of the Academy, which was founded 
^ See Appendix A. 


in 1701, was the revival of the ancient glories of Italian 
sacred music. Ottoboni gathered around him all the poets 
and musicians of Rome. He held frequent concerts, 
instituted competitions and gave magnificent prizes. He 
was something of a poet himself, and wrote some capital 
opera and oratorio libretti for Scarlatti. In his young 
days, too, he had tried his hand at musical composition, 
though the failure of his opera Colombo in 1692 seems 
to have checked his ambition in that direction. 

Blainville, who had been secretary to the States-General 
at the Court of Spain, was in Rome in the spring of 1707, 
and has left an account of a concert at Cardinal Ottoboni's, 
at which in all probability Handel himself was present : 
" His Eminence," he writes, " keeps in his pay the best 
musicians and performers in Rome, and amongst others 
the famous Archangelo Corelli and young Paolucci, who 
is reckoned the finest voice in Europe, so that every 
Wednesday he has an excellent concert in his palace, and 
we assisted there this very day (14th May 1707). We 
were there served with iced and other delicate liquors, and 
this is likewise the custom when the Cardinals or Roman 
princes visit each other. But the greatest inconveniency 
in all these concerts and visits is that one is pestered with 
swarms of trifling little Abbes, who come thither on purpose 
to fill their bellies with these liquors, and to carry off the 
crystal bottles with the napkins into the bargain." ^ 

Handel was, as we have seen, a welcome visitor at 
Ottoboni's splendid palace, hard by the Church of St. 
Lorenzo in Damaso, but, being a foreigner, he does not 
seem to have been actually admitted to membership of 
the Academy. Under Ottoboni's roof he rubbed shoulders 
with some of the most famous of living musicians, among 

^ Blainville, Travels, vol. ii. chap. xl. 


them Caldara, Corelli, and Alessandro Scarlatti. 
Here also he met Cardinal Benedetto Panfili, who wrote 
for him the libretto of // Trionfo del Tempo, and the 
Marquis di RuspoH, one of Scarlatti's chief patrons, in 
whose house Handel was staying when he wrote his 
oratorio La Resurrezione in April 1708. Ruspoli was 
one of the leading lights of the famous Academy of the 
Arcadians, which had been founded in 1690 "to further 
the cultivation of the sciences and to awake throughout 
Italy the taste for humane letters, and in particular for 
poetry in the vulgar tongue." Everybody in Rome who 
had any pretensions to culture was an Arcadian. Prelates 
and painters, musicians and poets met on equal terms 
in the delicious gardens of the Roman nobility, where 
the academical meetings took place. The fiction of 
Arcadia was kept up even in nomenclature. Every 
Arcadian was known by a pastoral name. Corelli was 
Arcimelo, Alessandro Scarlatti Terpandro, and Pasquini 
Protico. These three famous musicians were admitted 
members in 1706, and from that time forward music 
played a prominent part in the life of the Academy. 
No one under the age of twenty-four was available for 
membership, so that Handel never actually belonged to 
the Academy ; but he was a frequent guest at the meetings, 
and took his full share in the musical performances. 

Mr. E. J. Dent, in his admirable biography of Scar- 
latti, quotes an interesting description from Crescimbeni's 
Arcadia of one of the Academy's music-meetings, which 
gives a good idea of the kind of entertainment at which 
Handel must often have assisted : 

" First came a sinfonia of Corelli, then two cantatas of 
Pasquini to words by Gian Battista Felici Zappi (Tirsi) 
After this came a duet by Scarlatti, also to words by 


Zappi, followed by an instrumental piece of some sort. 
Scarlatti was at the harpsichord, but managed at the same 
time to observe that Zappi was in process of thinking out 
a new poem. He begged Zappi to produce it ; Zappi 
agreed to do so on condition that Scarlatti set it to music 
at once. Scarlatti assented, and ' no sooner had Tirsi 
finished his recital than Terpandro, with a truly stupend- 
ous promptness, began to transcribe the verses recited, 
with the music thereto ; and when these had been sung, 
the souls of those present received of them so great 
delight, that they not only obliged the singer to repeat 
the song again and again, but also urged both poet and 
musician to display their skill afresh.' After some pressing 
Zappi and Scarlatti repeated their impromptu perform- 
ance, and ' meanwhile every one was astonished to see how 
two such excellent masters, the one of poetry and the 
other of music, did contend ; and this contention was so 
close that scarce had the one finished repeating the last 
line of the new air than the other ended the last stave 
of the music' " 

Handel left Rome some time in the autumn of 1707, 
and took his way northwards to Venice. 

He may have passed through Florence on his way, 
but if so it is not likely that he stayed there very long.^ 
Prince Ferdinand was at Pratolino all that autumn, busy 
with the production of Perti's Dionisio, which had been 
specially composed for him, and Handel probably pushed 
on to Venice as quickly as he could. The precise date 
of his arrival cannot now be discovered, but it is known 
that he was presented to Prince Ernest Augustus of 

* It was by no means the universal custom in those days to travel from 
Rome to Venice via Florence. Both Misson and Blainville went from 
Venice to Rome by Ancona, Loretto, Foligno, and Terni. 


Hanover on the occasion of this visit, and as the Prince 
arrived in Venice on 30th September, and departed at 
the end of November,^ we know at any rate that the 
historians who have represented Handel as only arriving 
in Venice in time for the Carnival are wrong. In Venice 
Handel found himself in the home of opera. In Florence 
opera was the plaything of princes, and at Rome papal 
prejudice forbade it altogether, but at Venice it was 
beloved of rich and poor alike, and at that time no fewer 
than seven ^ theatres were devoted to its cultivation. 

Handel doubtless visited all of them, and heard the 
operas of Lotti, Gasparini, Albinoni and other famous 
composers, and listened to the mellifluous tones of Senesino, 
who was then singing at the Teatro San Cassiano, but he 
wrote nothing himself^ 

Why this was so, it is now hard to say. Perhaps, 
being a foreigner, he found the doors of the theatres 
closed to him, or it is possible that he regarded his visit 

^ Brief e des Herzogs Ernst August zu Braunschweig- Liineburg an T. F. D, 
von Wendt, 1 902. 

2 Misson, New Voyage to Italy, 1 7 14, vol. i. pt. i. 

^ Handel's two visits to Venice have given grievous cause for stumbling to 
all his biographers. 

The original Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin was 
Mainwaring, who, notoriously inaccurate as he was with regard to times and 
seasons, confused the two visits, and placed the production of Agrippina dur- 
ing the first instead of the second. This error has been reproduced by almost 
all Handel's subsequent biographers, despite the fact staring them in the face 
in all the records of Venetian operatic history that Agrippina was produced 
during the Carnival season of 1709-10. In the first volume of his biography 
of Handel, published in 1858, Chrysander followed Mainwaring's error, but 
many years afterwards he admitted his mistake. Unfortunately his recanta- 
tion appeared in a periodical little read in England {Vierteljahrsschrift fiir 
Musikwissenschaft, vol. x. 1894), and passed almost unnoticed, so that 
modern writers on Handel have gone on light-heartedly copying the 
oric:inal blunder. 


to Venice as a holiday, and did not care to undertake 
serious work. He seems, at any rate, to have enjoyed 
himself, and to have made friends with many useful and 
influential people. The story of his meeting with Domenico 
Scarlatti, who was at Venice at the time studying with 
Gasparini, is well known. 

It took place at a masquerade, where Handel was 
persuaded to play the harpsichord. The beauty of his 
performance astonished the guests, and every one wondered 
who the masked musician could be who achieved such 
miracles of dexterity, until Scarlatti, who had probably 
heard from friends in Rome of Handel's accomplishments, 
cried out that it must be either the famous Saxon or the 

From that time forward Handel and Domenico were 
fast friends. They returned together from Venice to 
Rome, and often met in friendly rivalry in the palace of 
Cardinal Ottoboni or of some other musical magnate. It 
was at one of the meetings of the Cardinal's Academy that 
the famous contest between the two virtuosi took place, in 
which they were adjudged equal so far as the harpsichord 
was concerned, while on the organ Handel was admittedly 
superior. All his life long Domenico retained his respect 
and admiration for Handel, and in his later years he is 
said never to have mentioned Handel's name without 
crossing himself. It is not, however, recorded that Handel 
crossed himself at the name of Scarlatti. 

Reference has already been made to Handel's meeting 
with Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover. The Prince 
was the youngest brother of the Elector of Hanover, who 
a few years later became George I of England, From all 
accounts, he was a singularly amiable young man, and his 
correspondence shows him to have been a great lover of 


music. Handel met him at a fortunate moment. The 
Prince was having a dull time in Venice, for his two 
companions, Baron von Pallandt and Kammerherr van 
Fabrice/ seem to have spent most of their time in houses 
of ill fame, and left their royal master to amuse himself 
as best he could. Consequently Ernest Augustus made a 
great deal of Handel, and ended by begging him to pay a 
visit to Hanover when his Italian tour was over. 

Another grandee who crossed Handel's path in 
Venice was the Duke of Manchester,^ who was an 
ardent patron of music, and worked as hard as any man 
of his time towards establishing Italian opera in England. 
The Duke was Ambassador Extraordinary at Venice 
from July 1707 to October 1708, and entered with the 
utmost gusto into the musical life of the city.^ He gave 
Vanbrugh material help in choosing the singers for his 
new opera-house in the Haymarket, and, to judge by 
his correspondence, spent a good deal more of his time 
in listening to the newest virtuosi and in shopping for 
the Duchess of Marlborough than in transacting official 
business. Where he first met Handel we do not know, 
but he seems to have been struck by the young com- 
poser's talent, and at once invited him to London. 
Handel's arrangements would not allow him to accept 
the invitation forthwith, but there is no doubt that the 
Duke's amiable suggestion first turned his thoughts in 
the direction of England. 

Meanwhile he was due back in Rome, where his 

^ It is worth while to mention the names of these egregious persons, 
since it has often been stated that the Prince was accompanied by Baron von 
Kielmansegg and Steffani. 

^ Gentleman^ s Magazine, vol. xxx. p. 24. 

^ Duke of Manchester, Cotirt and Society from Elizabeth to Ajine, vol. ii. 


friends the Arcadians were eagerly awaiting him. The 
chronology of Handel's Italian journeys is distressingly 
vague, and we know not whether Handel stayed in 
Venice for the Carnival, or kept his Christmas in Rome. 
There is an old tradition that Handel spent a Christmas 
in Rome, and heard the zampognari or pifferari, as the 
shepherds of the Abruzzi are called, who at that season 
descend from the mountains and play their quaint 
bagpipe melodies in the streets of Rome. It has been 
argued that the superscription pifa, which occurs in the 
autograph of The Messiah, implies that the Pastoral 
Symphony is founded upon one of these shepherd 
melodies. More probably it is only an imitation of the 
traditional style, like Corelli's famous Christmas concerto 
or the lovely pastoral air in Scarlatti's Christmas oratorio, 
which is quoted by Mr. Dent in his life of the composer. 
Still, it would be pleasant to think that Handel had 
heard the pifferari, and had listened to the wild music 
that a hundred years later made so profound an im- 
pression upon the j^outhful Berlioz. 

Whether Handel heard the pifferari or not, he was 
certainly back in Rome early in the spring, safely 
established in the palace of his friend the Marquis di 
Ruspoli. An autograph cantata in the British Museum is 
dated Rome, 3 March 1708, and in April he composed his 
first oratorio, La Resurrezione, which was soon followed 
by the allegorical cantata, // Trionfo del Tempo e del 
Disinganno. Both saw the light in the palace of Cardinal 
Ottoboni. It was during a rehearsal of the latter that 
the famous scene occurred in which Corelli and Handel 
played such characteristic parts. Corelli, whose technique 
appears to have been but moderate, — witness the story 
which Burney tells, on the authority of Corelli's pupil 


Geminiani, of the famous violinist's lamentable fiasco at a 
concert in Naples, — was struggling with a difficult passage 
in the overture, when the impetuous German snatched the 
violin from his hands and played it himself All that the 
gentle Corelli said was : " But, my dear Saxon, this music 
is in the French style, of which I have no experience." The 
matter was settled by Handel's writing a fresh symphony 
in a less exacting style. Handel left Rome for Naples 
early in the summer. He was in Naples by the begin- 
ning of July, as we learn from the date upon the 
autograph of his trio, " Se tu non lasci amore." The 
tradition that he was accompanied upon his journey by 
Alessandro Scarlatti has no foundation in fact, since 
the latter was in Rome in October, and did not reach 
Naples until the end of the year.^ 

Naples was a whirlpool of political conflict when 
Handel arrived there. For some years the struggles 
for the Spanish Succession had disturbed its tranquillity. 
The Archduke Charles of Austria had been proclaimed 
King of Spain in 1705, and in 1707 the Austrian troops 
had occupied Naples. When Handel reached Naples 
in July 1708 the post of viceroy had just been given to 
Cardinal Grimani, a Venetian, whose government was 
little appreciated by the jealous Neapolitans. The city 
swarmed with Austrian soldiers, discontented for lack 
of pay, and on the look-out for anything that they could 
pick up. Street disturbances were frequent, and blood 
flowed freely. Nevertheless, in the palaces of the 
nobility life went on much as usual. There was no 
lack of festivity, and Handel and his music were as 
welcome here as they had been in Rome. According to 
Mainwaring "he had a palazzo at command, and was 

^ Dent, Alessandro Scarlatti, 


provided with table, coach, and all other accom- 
modations. . . . He received invitations from most of 
the principal persons who lived within reach of the 
capital, and lucky was he esteemed who could engage 
him soonest and detain him longest." Mr. Dent quotes 
from Conforto, a Neapolitan diarist of the early eighteenth 
century, a description of a musical party of the period, 
which gives a good idea of the kind of entertainment in 
which Handel must often have taken part : " Among 
other things, he (an extravagant nobleman) held at his 
house a most lively assembly with the choicest music, 
consisting of ten instruments and four of the best voices 
of this city, directed by the Maestro di Cappella, 
Alessandro Scarlatti ; and to the large crowd of titled 
persons that attended he caused to be offered con- 
tinuously an unspeakable quantity of meats and drinks 
of all kinds, with various fruits, both fresh and candied, 
as he did also for the large number of servants in attend- 
ance on them. His palace was all most nobly decorated, 
and all lit with wax torches as far as the courtyard ; the 
sideboard consisted of two long tables of silver fairly 
and symmetrically disposed ; and there was visible in 
the distance a most beautiful fountain, also of silver, 
which for seven continuous hours spouted perfumed 
water, about which fluttered a large number of live birds. 
There was also a pavilion of crimson damask, under 
which were fourteen superb trionfi of fruit, both fresh 
and candied, as well as other curious inventions. The 
which entertainment lasted some time after midnight, 
the ladies and gentlemen, according to their usual habit, 
after having filled their bellies and their bosoms with 
sweetmeats, and having had every pleasure of sight, 
taste, and hearing, not failing to scoff and make a mock 


of the solemn folly of the last new marquis." There was 
a branch of the Arcadian Academy at Naples, which 
greeted Handel with acclamation, and it is almost cer- 
tain that he composed the pastoral cantata, Act, Galatea 
e Polifenw, a work which has nothing save name in 
common with the better known Acis and Galatea, for 
one of the Academical gatherings. Society at Naples 
was more cosmopolitan than in Rome. Mainwaring 
says that Handel's chief patroness was a Spanish Princess, 
and it was no doubt for her that he wrote his one 
extant Spanish song with guitar accompaniment. For 
another friend he wrote a set of little French chansons, 
to say nothing of the numerous cantatas that flowed 
like water from his pen during the whole of his sojourn 
in Italy. But the most influential friend that Handel 
made in Naples was Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, the 
Viceroy, who seems to have taken the composer under 
his special protection, and evidently smoothed the way 
for his return to Venice and for the production of 
Agrippina. Grimani was a Venetian, and his family 
owned the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo, so that 
his influence threw open all doors to Handel, that had 
been closed before owing to the prevailing prejudice 
against foreigners. His amiability carried him still 
further. In his leisure moments he trifled not un- 
successfully with the muse, and he paid Handel the 
compliment of writing for him the libretto of Agrippina} 
How long Handel stayed in Naples it is impossible 

^ A note in Bonlini's Glorie della Poesia has been strangely misinterpreted 
by Chrysander. Referring to Agrippina the author observes : " Questo 
drama, come pure PElmiro, Re di Corinto e POrazio, rappresentate piu di 
venti anno sono su I'istesso teatro, vantano comune I'origine da una Fonte 
sublime." (This drama, as also Elmiro, Re di Corinto and Orazio, per- 


to say, but he must have been back in Rome some time 
in the spring of 1709, since he undoubtedly made 
Steffani's acquaintance during his stay in Italy, and 
Steffani, who had been sent to the papal court on a 
diplomatic mission by the Elector Palatine, was only in 
Italy from October 1708 to June 1709.^ Steffani was 
something very much more than a mere musician, 
indeed in some ways he was one of the most remark- 
able men of his time. He started life as a chorister in 
Venice, and rose by his own exertions to be one of the 
leading diplomatists of Europe. He had been Kapell- 
meister at Hanover since 1685, and was now on the 
look-out for a promising successor. He must have 
known Handel well by reputation, since his former pupil 
Sophia Charlotte, now Queen of Prussia, was one of the 
young composer's earliest patronesses. He probably 
met Handel beneath the hospitable roof of Cardinal 
Ottoboni, and seized the opportunity of suggesting that 
Handel should step into his shoes at Hanover. Handel 
jumped at the offer, and promised to make his way to 
Hanover directly he left Italy. 

It was probably in the autumn of 1709 that Handel 
said good-bye to Rome, and turned his steps northward. 
It is not known by what route he travelled, but we may 
consider it at least probable that he went via Florence, in 

formed more than twenty years before at the same theatre, boast a common 
origin from a sublime Fount. ) 

The "sublime Fount" is, of course, Cardinal Grimani, who wrote the 
libretti of Elmiro, Re di Corinto and Orazio, produced respectively at the 
Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo in 1687 and 1688, as well as that of 
Agrippina, but Chrysander in the most fantastic manner tried to twist out 
of the words a reference to Florence, the cradle of opera, in order to justify 
his view of the chronology of Handel's Italian travels. 

1 Woker, " Aus den Papieren des Kurpfalzischen Ministers Agostino 
Steffani." {Vereinsschrift der Gorres-Geselbchaft, 1885.) 


order to say good-bye to his friends at the Medici court. 
If so, he found them in sad trouble. The G^-an Principe 
Ferdinand had been for some time in faiHng health. His 
constitution was undermined by youthful excesses, and 
in the previous year he had been brought almost to 
death's door by the ministrations of an English physician 
from the fleet at Leghorn, who had subjected him to a 
treatment more drastic than his constitution could stand.^ 

In August 1709 he had gone as usual to pass the 
autumn at Pratolino, and had been struck down on the 
1st of September by a series of epileptic fits. For some 
time his life was in danger.^ Prayers were offered up 
in all the Florentine churches, and the anxiety in the 
city was great.^ By the end of the month, however, 
Ferdinand seemed to be well on the way to recovery, 
and a Te Deuin of thanksgiving, " with solemn and 
exquisite music and rich symphonies, composed by the 
first musicians of Florence and other foreign musicians,"* 
was sung in the Church of the Annunziata. 

If Handel stayed in Florence on his way to Venice, 
it is quite possible that he was one of the foreign 
musicians who helped to compose the Te Deiivi, especi- 
ally as his old patron Gian Gastone was in Florence at 
the time, and was actually present at the thanksgiving 
service.'' But we really know next to nothing of his 
movements at this period. 

^ Galluzzi, Istoria del Granducato di Toscaua, Tom. iv. Libro 8. 

^ Seltimanni, Diario, 1532-1737. (Archivio di Stato, Florence. ) 

^ Portinari, Diario, 1700-20. (Biblioteca Marucelliana, Florence). 

* Settimanni, Diario. 

^ Mr. P. Robinson, in his Handel and his Orbit, has propounded a theory 
that in the spring or summer of 1709 Handel visited the shores of the lake of 
Como, stayed with friends at Urio and Erba, two villages in the neighbour- 
hood, and there composed the Te Deuin and Magnificat, hitherto ascribed 


In due course Handel arrived at Venice, and the 
credentials that he brought from Cardinal Grimani made 
the production of Agrippina at the Teatro di San Giovanni 
Grisostomo an easy matter. There is an apparent dis- 
crepancy between the various records of its production. 
The libretto is dated 1709, and Allacci, followed by Wiel, 
gives 1709 as the date of production. Bonlini, on the 
other hand, followed by Ademollo, says 17 10. The 
ambiguity arises from the fact that Agrippina was pro- 
duced in what was called the Carnival season of 17 10, and 
in Bonlini's catalogue all the operas produced during 
that season are grouped together under the date 1710. 
But the Carnival season actually began on December 
26th, and as Agrippina comes first in Bonlini's list of the 
Carnival operas we may take it for granted that it was 
chosen to open the season. It may therefore be taken as 
a settled fact that Agrippina was produced on the 26th of 
December 1709. The scene must have been brilliance 
and gaiety itself The opening of the Carnival was the 
great day of the year in Venice. The city was crowded 
with strangers from every country in Europe, and the 
theatres were crammed from floor to ceiling. The Teatro 
di San Giovanni Grisostomo was one of the handsomest 

respectively to obscure contemporary composers named Urio and Erba, of 
which he made extensive use in later works. Mr. Robinson's singularly 
cogent and luminous reasoning may be said to have established the Handelian 
authorship of both works, though no actual evidence is forthcoming as to the 
date and place of their composition. It is quite possible that Handel left 
Rome with Steffani at the end of April 1709, and travelled with him via 
Florence to Venice, where he arrived on the 13th of May (Woker, Aus den 
Papieren Agostino Steffanis). Stefifani stayed for a few days at the palace of 
the Elector of Hanover, and then returned to Diisseldorf. Handel may have 
accompanied Steffani to Venice, which would give some colour to Mainwaring's 
story of their having met there, and then gone to stay with his friends near 



in Venice. It had been built about thirty years before, in 
the richest and most luxurious taste of the barocco period. 
Its decorations were getting a little dingy, but at night, 
when thronged with a brilliant audience, and illumin- 
ated by the hundreds of wax tapers which the ladies 
brought with them to enhance their charms, it still 
contrived to make a brave show. The boxes were 
occupied by richly bejewelled ladies with their attendant 
cavaliers, for it was the fashion just then in Venice for a 
woman when she went to the opera to wear all the jewel- 
lery she could lay her hands upon. The pit and gallery 
were densely packed with gondoliers, who were admitted 
gratis, and enlivened the performance with sympathetic 
cries of delight and personal remarks of a remarkably 
intimate nature addressed to the singers. Agrippina 
went, in the expressive Italian phrase, to the stars. The 
audience waxed tumultuous in their enthusiasm as the 
evening wore on. Cries of " Long live the Saxon 1 " rent 
the air, while the gondoliers in the gallery called down 
benedictions on every singer in turn, in such phrases as 
" Blessed be the father that begat thee," and " Blessed be 
the mother that bare thee." Meanwhile the young nobles 
in the boxes caught the infection. Leaning over the 
balustrade towards the stage in a frenzy of artistic rapture, 
they cried, " Cara, I throw myself headlong at your feet," 
and similar extravagances, while hastily written sonnets 
hurled upon the stage testified to the inspiring influence 
of Handel's music, and to the irresistible charms of his 
singers.^ Handel was the hero of the hour, and every calle 
in Venice rang with his praises. 

Among the singers who took part in the opera were 
Francesca Durastanti (Agrippina), who afterwards sang 

' Blainville, Travels, vol. i. chap. Ix.wiii. 


under Handel in London ; Boschi, a tremendous bass with 
a compass of two octaves and a half, who had sung in 
Naples in Handel's Act, Galatea e Polifenio ; and his wife, 
who appeared as Ottone. The principal castrato in the 
cast was Valeriano Pellegrini, who took the part of Nero. 
Pellegrini, or Valeriano as he was generally called, was a 
favourite singer of Johann Wilhelm, the Elector Palatine, 
at whose court he was generally to be found. Valeriano 
seems to have scored a great success in Agrippina. 
Giorgio Stella, another of the Elector's singers, writing 
from Venice to his patron on the loth of January 1710 
says : " I meant to send you the songs from the opera 
that is being played at the San Cassiano theatre, but I 
could not get hold of them. I am not sending the songs 
of the San Giovanni Grisostomo opera, as I suppose that 
Valeriano will send them. He is much applauded there, 
as he is a great artist." ^ Agrippina ran uninterruptedly 
for twenty-seven nights, a thing rare in the annals of 
Venetian opera, if not unprecedented, and soon brought 
all Venice to Handel's feet. His friend, the Duke of 
Manchester, was no longer in Venice, and Prince Ernest 
Augustus had also gone home, but there were plenty of 
other distinguished foreigners amusing themselves in the 
city of the lagoons. 

Among them was one of the leading lights of the 
Hanoverian court, Baron Kielmansegg, the Elector's 
Master of the Horse, and the husband of the lady who 
enjoyed the reputation of being her sovereign's favourite 
mistress. Kielmansegg had probably heard of Handel 
from Prince Ernest Augustus and Steffani, and he was 
doubtless flattered to find that a fellow-German was the 

' Einstein, " Italienische Musiker am Hofe der Neuburger Wittelsbacher." 
{Sammelbiinde der Internationalen MusikgeseUschafl, Jahrg. ix. p. 407.) 


hero of the hour in Venetian salons. At any rate, he 
made friends with Handel, and probably took him back 
to Hanover when he left Italy in the spring of 17 10. 
In Hanover Handel was warmly welcomed by Steffani, 
to whose kind and friendly behaviour he afterwards 
paid a warm tribute in a conversation with Sir John 
Hawkins, which the latter records in his history : " When 
I first arrived at Hanover I was a young man. I under- 
stood somewhat of music, and — putting forth his broad 
hands and extending his fingers — could play pretty well 
on the organ. He received me with great kindness, and 
took an early opportunity to introduce me to the Princess 
Sophia and the Elector's son, giving them to understand 
that I was what he was pleased to call a virtuoso in music. 
He obliged me with instructions for my conduct and 
behaviour during my residence in Hanover, and being 
called from the city to attend to matters of a public 
concern, he left me in possession of that favour and 
patronage which himself had enjoyed for a series of 

Handel received the appointment of Kapellmeister on 
the i6th of June i/io,^ at an annual salary of 1000 thalers, 
but his stay in Hanover was a brief one. It seems to 
have been an understood thing that he was to finish his 
Wanderjahre before settling down to his work, and he 
soon obtained leave of absence. His first visit was to 
his mother at Halle, and after a short stay there he 
proceeded to Diisseldorf, where he was warmly welcomed 
at the court of the Elector Palatine. Johann Wilhelm 
was a typical German princeling of the eighteenth 
century. The Versailles tradition had dazzled him, and 
his starving people had to pay for the follies and ex- 

^ Fischer, Ope7-n tind Concerte im Hof theater zu Hatmover, 1899. 


travagances of his court at Dusseldorf. In many ways he 
was a man of cultivation and refinement. The famous 
picture gallery of Dusseldorf bore witness to the correct- 
ness of his artistic taste. Music was another of his 
passions. The opera at Dusseldorf was one of the most 
brilliant in Germany, and the Elector's private band was 
specially admired by Blainville, who visited Dusseldorf in 
1705. Even that seasoned traveller was dumbfounded at 
the magnificence of the Electoral court. " Balls, operas," 
he wrote, " comedies, concerts of music, festivals, all are 
equally splendid, all of which diversions we shared 
regularly during the month we were there." About 
Johann Wilhelm himself he wrote with some hesitation : 
" The Prince is of a middle stature, square-built, has a 
wide large mouth, and his under-lip very thick and turned 
up. He is about forty-six years of age, very courteous and 
affable, but not of a very equal temper, being so easy as 
to be the dupe of the first rogue that has the courage to 
put upon him, especially in matters that he imagines may 
contribute to his grandeur, for he is ambitious beyond all 
bounds." A neat little character-sketch follows of the 
Electress Anna Maria, who was a daughter of Cosmo III, 
the Grand Duke of Tuscany : " She is tall and easy, of a 
genteel shape, very fair in her complexion for an Italian 
lady, has black eyes, large and well cut. Her hair is of 
the same colour ; she has a pretty mouth, only her lips 
are a little too thick. Her teeth are white as ivory, but 
her voice is a little too masculine, and she laughs too loud. 
She is about thirty-seven, and has never had any children. 
They say here that she is extremely jealous of her husband, 
to such a degree, that she has not unfrequently exposed 
herself to insults, by following him in the night veiled with 
a mantle, to find out his gallantries. There is nothing 


astonishing in this, considering that she was educated in 
a country where jealousy prevails to madness, and all the 
world knows that the Elector is no enemy to gallantry." ^ 
Johann Wilhelm and his wife must both have known all 
about Handel, — the Elector from Steffani, with whom he 
maintained a close correspondence, and Anna Maria from 
her brothers Ferdinand and Gian Gastone, — and they 
welcomed him to Diisseldorf with open arms. Johann 
Wilhelm would gladly have kept Handel at his court, but 
that being impossible, he sped him on his way to England, 
presenting him on his departure from Diisseldorf with a 
service of plate. Handel journeyed to England through 
Holland, arriving in London in the late autumn of 17 10. 

1 Blainville, Travels in Holland, Germany, Italy, etc., vol. i. chap. viii. 


IT would be interesting to know what were Handel's 
first impressions of London. It must necessarily 
have struck him as very different from anything he had 
yet seen, and he felt no doubt that he had left equally 
far behind him the tranquil respectability of Halle and 
Hamburg and the culture and vivacity of Rome and 
Florence, In the early eighteenth century travel and 
education had not swept away racial barriers. Society 
was not yet cosmopolitan. Each country had its own 
prejudices and peculiarities, and London in those days 
differed as much from Paris, as Paris now differs from 
Constantinople. London in 1710 was a compact city of 
some five hundred thousand inhabitants, about the present 
size of Birmingham. On the west it reached as far as 
Bond Street, on the north to Russell Square, and on 
the east to Whitechapel Church. Beyond these limits 
meadows and fields extended to the neighbouring villages, 
such as Kensington, Hampstead, and Ilford. Within the 
city the tumult, dirt and disorder were such as we 
moderns can scarcely realise. There were laws directing 
householders to keep the streets clean in front of their 
houses, but no one paid any attention to them. The 
streets were ankle-deep in mud and encumbered with 


heaps of refuse, which it seemed to be no one's business 
to clear away. In the middle of the eighteenth century- 
no great surprise was expressed at the discovery of the 
body of a murdered infant, after several days' search, on 
a dunghill in Drury Lane. The crowd in the principal 
streets was overpowering, but though contemporary 
complaints of the noise are common, I suspect that in 
this respect our modern motor-buses could give points 
to the waggons of Queen Anne's time. At night, how- 
ever, we have unquestionably the advantage. The few- 
miserable oil-lamps that illuminated the streets in those 
days served but to make darkness visible, or to help 
the dreaded Mohocks to escape the interference of the 
watch. As to the Mohocks, it is probable that the horrors 
of their nocturnal exploits were considerably exaggerated, 
but even if we allow a margin for embroidery they remain 
sufficiently serious. We may doubt, for instance, whether 
it was a common pastime for these gentry to force an 
unarmed man to fight, and to kill him in the middle of 
the street, or to thrust a woman into a barrel and roll 
her down Ludgate Hill, though both feats are recorded 
as being favourite Mohock practices ; but the issue of a 
proclamation referring to " the great and unusual Riots 
and Barbarities, which have lately been committed in the 
Night time in the open Streets," proves that the nocturnal 
dangers of London were far from being merely the 
figments of diseased imagination. But the truth was 
that public opinion was only just being aroused to the 
indecorum of this kind of thing. At a time when duels 
were openly fought in Lincoln's Inn Fields or in the 
meadows of Bloomsbury, the appeal to force struck no one 
as an offence against civilisation. If the horrors of the 
Mohock frolics were somewhat exaggerated by Gay and 


other writers of the time, there was no necessity for 
embroidering the exploits of the professional thieves who 
lurked in the quieter streets for unprotected wayfarers. 
To what lengths their audacity could go, Lady Cowper's 
Diary sets forth : " Friday night Mr. Mickelwaite was set 
upon by nine Footpads, who fired at his Postilion without 
bidding him stand just at the end of Bedford Row, in the 
road which goes there from Pancras Church to Gray's Inn 
Lane. His servants and he fired at them again, and the 
Pads did the same, till all the Fire was spent, and then he 
rode through them to the Town, to call for Help, it being 
dark, which they seeing they could not prevent, ran away. 
Near that Place, under the dead Wall of Gray's Inn 
Garden, a Gentlewoman, coming Home with her son 
about half an hour after ten of Saturday Night, two men 
met them, one of whom struck the Lan thorn out of her 
Son's Hand, and ran away with his Hat and Wig. She 
cried out ' Thieves ! ' and they shot her immediately through 
the Head, and are not yet discovered." ^ Nearly half a 
century later the streets were still dangerous. Horace 
Walpole wrote in 1750 : " I was sitting in my own dining- 
room [in Arlington Street] on Sunday night ; the clock 
had not struck eleven, when I heard a loud cry of ' Stop 
thief!' A highwayman had attacked a post-chaise in 
Piccadilly within fifty yards of this house ; the fellow was 
pursued, rode over the watchman, almost killed him, and 
escaped." On the other hand, in certain social matters, 
such as the twopenny post and the " Flying Coaches," the 
England of Queen Anne's time set an excellent example 
to foreign countries. The growth of club and coffee-house 
life, which was a feature of this period, also tended to 
soothe the ferocious manners of the day. Theatres were 

^ Diary of Lady Coivper, 1 716. 


to some extent under a cloud, owing largely to Queen 
Anne's personal disapproval of the stage, and in respect 
of opera Handel found London just as far behind the 
humblest German or Italian capital as it is to-day — a 
more complete condemnation cannot be conceived ! 

Until a few years before Handel's arrival there had 
been no opera at all in London. In 1705, however, an 
attempt was made to acclimatise in England the form 
of art which had been the delight of Italy for a hundred 
years. Clayton's Arsinoe was produced at Drury Lane 
"after the Italian manner, all sung." The opera was 
given in English, and the singers were all English, though 
at the first performance, according to the advertisement, 
Signora de I'Epine gave " several entertainments of 
singing before the beginning and after the ending of the 
Opera." Arsinoe broke the ice, and London soon woke 
up to the fact that the new form of entertainment was 
worth cultivating. Marcantonio Bononcini's Camilla, also 
given in English, was the next success. It was produced 
in 1706, and in the same year Sir John Vanbrugh opened 
his new Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket (" By Beauty 
founded, and by Wit designed," as the prologue gracefully 
phrased it, in compliment to Lady Sutherland, who laid 
the foundation stone) with Giacomo Greber's Loves of 
Ergasto, an Italian opera Englished by P. A. Motteux. 
Ergasto was a failure, and was followed by Vanbrugh's 
Confederacy. The new theatre, however, was too large 
for comedy, and Vanbrugh determined to persevere with 
opera. He tried to bring Bononcini to England, and his 
friend and patron, the Duke of Manchester, whose position 
as Ambassador Extraordinary at Venice placed him at the 
very heart of the operatic world, exhausted all the arts 
of diplomacy in his endeavours to win from the court of 


Vienna permission for the popular composer to visit 
London.^ Failing Bononcini himself, the English dilet- 
tanti had to content themselves with his music, and 
Camilla was revived in 1707. Meanwhile opera was 
becoming the fashion, though the absurd plan of giving 
the words, Hamburg fashion, partly in English and partly 
in Italian was still followed. Writing early in 1708 to 
the Duke of Manchester, who was quite as greedy for 
operatic as for political news, Vanbrugh declares that " the 
town cries out for a new man and woman of the first rate 
to be got against next winter from Italy." Manchester, 
as usual, was Vanbrugh's good angel. He discovered the 
desiderated " new man," and brought him in triumph 
to England in the handsome person of Nicolini, who 
appeared in the autumn of 1708 in Scarlatti's Pirro e 
Demetrio, and took London by storm. He was mutatis 
mutandis the Caruso of the hour, and his doings were 
catalogued by journalists with respectful awe. He was as 
good an actor as he was a singer, and even Steele, who 
from his position in the theatrical world had excellent 
reasons for grudging opera its popularity, did him full 
justice in this respect. His famous fight with the lion in 
Hydaspes furnished the Spectator and the Tatler with an 
admirable target for the arrows of their satire. Hitherto 
all the operatic performances in London had been either 
English or bilingual, but in 17 10 the town, as Addison 
observed, tired of understanding but half of the entertain- 
ment, determined for the future to understand none of it, 
and Almahide was performed in Italian alone, followed 
by Bononcini's Eteaixo, also given without any admixture 
of English. London was thus ripe for Handel. Addison 
and Steele had in vain exhausted their powers of ridicule. 

^ Duke of Manchester, Court and Society. 


Italian opera was firmly established in the good graces of 
society. The new composer, fresh from his triumphs in 
Italy, was received with open arms, and speedily received 
a commission from Aaron Hill to compose an opera for 
the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket, whither the Drury 
Lane operatic company had migrated in 1708. Rinaldo 
was written in a fortnight to a libretto by Giacomo Rossi, 
who complained that he could not turn his verses out 
quickly enough to keep pace with the fervid flow of 
Handel's inspiration. Rinaldo was produced with great 
success on the 24th of February 171 1, and was performed 
fifteen times before the close of the season, which came to 
an end on the 2nd of June. It is incorrect to say, as 
many of Handel's biographers have done, that Rinaldo 
was performed fifteen times without interruption. On the 
contrary, its run was broken by revivals, given " at the 
desire of several ladies of quality," of Hydaspes, Almahide, 
Pirro e Demetrio, and Clotilda, the attractions of the 
last-named being enhanced by a "Water-scene" which, 
according to the advertisements, " by reason of the Hot 
Weather," played for the greater part of the evening. 
Rinaldo itself underwent a certain amount of modifica- 
tion. After it had run for a month, some dances were 
introduced by M. du Breil and Mademoiselle la Feve, 
"just arrived from Bruxelles." 

The success of Rinaldo alarmed the advocates of 
English opera, of whom the spokesmen were Addison 
and Steele. Steele, who was a patentee of Drury Lane 
and the owner of a concert-room in York Buildings, saw 
his audiences drifting away to the Haymarket. Addison 
was still smarting from the failure of his English opera 
Rosamond, which, set to music by Clayton, had achieved 
a run of three nights a few years before. The two 


essayists joined forces for the purpose of crushing Rinaldo, 
and the Spectator and Tatlej' did all that they could to 
render it absurd and odious in the eyes of their readers. 
One of the most famous of the Spectator's attacks upon 
Rinaldo relates to the sparrows that were let loose in the 
theatre during the performance of the air " Augelletti che 
cantate." For the sufferings of the unfortunate birds 
themselves the distinguished essayist manifested little 
enough sympathy, though, as he said, " instead of perching 
on the Trees and performing their parts, these young 
actors either get into the Galleries or put out the Candles," 
but he professed great anxiety lest the poor little 
creatures should remain in the theatre and become a 
general nuisance. " It is feared," he observes, " that in 
other plays they may make their Entrance in very wrong 
and improper Scenes, so as to be seen flying in a Lady's 
Bed-Chamber, or perching upon a King's Throne, besides 
the Inconveniences which the Heads of the Audience may 
sometimes suffer from them." The dragons in Rinaldo 
and the mise-en-scene generally speaking, which seems to 
have been unusually elaborate, came in for their share of 
ridicule, and it is worth noting that it was the Spectator 
which started the accusation against Handel, often after- 
wards repeated, of revelling in noise for its own sake. At 
the close of one of the Spectator essays ridiculing Rinaldo 
there is a burlesque advertisement of a supposed new 
opera, The Cruelty of Atrcjts, in which "the scene wherein 
Thyestes eats his own Children is to be performed by the 
famous M. Psalmanazar, lately arrived from Formosa, the 
whole supper being set to Kettle-drums." But Rinaldo 
rose superior to Addison's raillery. It was revived in 
17 1 2, with Nicolini still in the principal part, and was 
given again in 17 15 and 17 17. Even so late as 173 1 it 


had not exhausted its popularity. Nor were its triumphs 
confined to England. It was performed at Hamburg 
with great success in 171 5, and at Naples in 17 17. 

During his stay in London, Handel's duties at the 
opera-house seemed to have monopolised him almost 
entirely. He gave no concerts, but it is highly probable 
that he played at the houses of some of the great dilettanti 
of the day. We have a glimpse of him at Sir John 
Stanley's, who was uncle to little Mary Granville, after- 
wards the well-known Mrs. Delany. The latter writes in 
her autobiography: "In the year 1710 I first saw Mr. 
Handel, who was introduced to my uncle Stanley by Mr. 
Heidegger. We had no better instrument in the house 
than a little spinet of mine, on which that great musician 
performed wonders." The friendship so begun lasted 
all Handel's lifetime. In later years Handel was a 
frequent visitor at Mrs. Delany's house, and would play 
to her for hours at a time. Musical life in London was 
of course very different from what it is now, but still 
concerts were given from time to time, and it is a little 
curious that Handel did not think it worth while to 
give one himself, especially as personal popularity was 
evidently much harder to win in England than in Italy. 
The success of Agrippitta in Venice raised the composer 
at once to the rank of a hero, but in London, even after 
the triumph of Rijtaldo, Handel often found life something 
of a struggle. The following advertisement from the 
Daily Courant gives a specimen of the sort of concert 
that was popular in London at the time : " For the benefit 
of Signiora Lody on Tuesday, 24th April 171 1, at Hume's 
Dancing School in Frith Street, Soho, will be a Consort 
of Vocal and Instrumental Musick ; a new Cantata with 
a solo on the Harpsichord, performed by Mr. Babell 


Junior, with a Variety of Concertos and other pieces com- 
posed and performed by Mr, Corbett and other of the 
best Masters, beginning at 7 o'clock." Handel himself 
may not impossibly have attended this very concert, since 
Rinaldo was that week performed on Wednesday the 
25th instead of the usual Tuesday, — Tuesday and Saturday 
were the ordinary opera nights, — and if so it was in all 
likelihood the playing of Babell, who was the most noted 
performer upon the harpsichord in London, that drew 
from him the observation that when he first went to 
London there were very few good composers there but 
plenty of good players. 

But the most famous concerts in London at that time 
were the weekly reunions of Thomas Britton, the small- 
coal man, which took place every Thursday in a loft " not 
much higher than a Canary Pipe, with a window but very 
little bigger than the Bunghole of a Cask," ^ over his coal- 
cellar in Clerkenwell. Britton's career was a remarkable 
one, especially at a time when music was a slave to the 
odious and degrading system of patronage, and most 
musicians lived in a slough of complacent flunkeydom. 
Britton plied his sooty trade by day, hawking coal about 
the streets of London. In the evening, washed, clothed 
and in his right mind, he gathered his friends about him, 
and discoursed sweet music, being himself a notable per- 
former upon the viol da gamba. Gradually his concerts 
became famous. The leading lights of musical London, 
Dr. Pepusch, Banister the violinist, John Hughes the 
author of The Siege of Damascus, who was a musician as 
well as a poet, and many others, took their parts in sonatas 
and concertos. Britton became the fashion. Visitors to 
London were taken to make his acquaintance as a matter 

^ Ward, Secret History of Chibs, 1709. 


of course. Thoresby, the diarist, records a visit, when he 
heard " a noble concert of music, vocal and instrumental, 
the best in town." ^ Matthew Prior sang of him : — 

" Though doom'd to small coal, yet to arts allied ; 
Rich without wealth, and famous without pride." 

Duchesses crawled up the crazy ladder leading to his 
concert room, which was celebrated by the doggerel poet 
Ned Ward, a near neighbour and intimate friend of 
Britton's : — 

" Upon Thursdays repair 
To my palace, and there 
Hobble up stair by stair ; 
But I pray ye take care 
That you break not your shin by a stumble.^ 

Thither Handel often repaired, according to Hawkins, 
playing both harpsichord and organ, and directing the 
performance, to the delight of the audience, who, as Ward 
vivaciously observed, were " willing to take a hearty Sweat 
that they might have the Pleasure of hearing many notable 
Performances in the charming Science of Musick." 

Handel left London for Hanover soon after the con- 
clusion of the opera season, on the 2nd of June 171 1. On 
his way he stopped at Dtisseldorf, where his old friend 
and patron the Elector Palatine was as delighted as ever 
to welcome him. How long Handel stayed at Dusseldorf 
cannot now be ascertained, but it is plain that he must 
have begun to be a little anxious as to what the Elector 
of Hanover would think of his prolonged absence, for a 
couple of letters from the Elector Palatine, dated the 17th 
of June, have recently come to light,^ one addressed to the 

^ Ralph Thoresby, Diary, vol. ii. 

^ Ward, Secret History of Clubs, 1709. 

^ Zeitschrift der Internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft, Bd. viii. p. 277. 


Elector of Hanover and the other to the old Electress 
Sophia, in which he apologises for keeping Handel "a 
few days," and explains that he is only doing so in order 
to show him some instruments, and get his opinion about 
them. Presumably the apology was accepted, and Handel 
settled down to his quiet life at Hanover without any 
uncomfortable questions being asked about his long 
holiday. At that time there was no opera at Hanover, 
and his energies were confined to chamber music. He 
had at his disposal an orchestra of eighteen musicians, 
for whom he probably wrote some of his hautboy con- 
certos. He also composed a set of thirteen chamber 
duets, some German songs and a few harpsichord pieces.^ 
The duets were written for the Princess Caroline, wife of 
Prince George, the Elector's son, afterwards George II, 
They show the influence of Steffani, who was an acknow- 
ledged master of the genre. Caroline of Ansbach was 
one of Handel's best and kindest friends, and he repaid 
her regard with warm gratitude and admiration. It is 
more than probable that they met as children at Berlin, 
for, when Handel visited the Prussian court as a juvenile 
prodigy in 1696, Caroline was actually living in Berlin 
under the care of her guardian, the Elector Frederick, 
and his wife, Sophia Charlotte. Caroline imbibed Sophia 
Charlotte's artistic tastes, and was always a devoted 
patron of music. She seems to have been no mean per- 
former too. Leibniz, who heard her sing a duet with the 
Hereditary Princess of Cassel, said that she sang very 
correctly and had a marvellous voice,^ and the Archduke 
Charles, who used to play her accompaniments, lost his 
heart so completely to the fair musician that, but for her 

^ Fischer, Ope^-n tmd Coitcerte im Hoftheater zu Hanttove}-, 
2 Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 105. 


objections to the Roman Catholic religion, she might have 
been Empress of Germany.^ The records of this period 
of Handel's career are sadly meagre, but we know from 
a letter of his written in July to Andreas Roner, a 
German musician who lived in London, that he spent some 
of his spare time in working at English ; and a message to 
John Hughes, with a request for a poem to set to music, 
shows that he retained friendly recollections of his friends 
in London.^ In the autumn of 17 11 he paid a visit to his 
relatives at Halle, and on November 23 stood godfather 
to his sister's daughter, Johanna Frederica, who was 
nominated as his residuary legatee in the will of 1750. 
After this we know nothing of his movements until a year 
later, when he obtained leave of absence from the Elector 
of Hanover on condition that he resumed his duties within 
a reasonable time. He left at once for London, where he 
arrived some time in the autumn of 17 12. 

^ " Briefe der Konigin Sophie Charlotte von Preussen." {Publikationen 
aus den K. Pretissischen Staatsarchiven, vol. Ixxix. p. 57-) 
^ Hughes, Correspondence, Dublin, 1773, vol. i. p. 39. 



HANDEL found changes in the musical world 
of London. Since his departure opera had 
languished, and the production in English of Galliard's 
Calypso did little to restore the falling fortunes of the art. 
Aaron Hill had given place to an adventurer named 
MacSwiney, who now ruled the destinies of the Queen's 
Theatre. For him Handel wrote a new opera, // Pastor 
Fido, to a libretto by Rossi, inferior in every way to that 
of Rinaldo. II Pastor Fido was produced on the 26th 
November 17 12, but in spite of the composer's popularity 
it won little success. The public missed Nicolini, who 
had left England in the summer, and the singing of his 
successor, Valeriano Pellegrini, who had sung in Handel's 
Agrippina three years before, did not make amends for 
the absence of the favourite. // Pastor Fido was only 
given six times. Far greater success attended Handel's 
Teseo, written to a libretto by Nicola Haym, which was 
produced on January loth, 171 3. Its triumphant career 
was hardly checked by the failure and flight of the 
egregious MacSwiney, who, after Teseo had been given 
twice, disappeared from the scene, leaving his bills un- 
settled and his singers unpaid. The latter determined to 



carry on the season as best they could, and as a matter 
of fact it endured until the 30th May, under the manage- 
ment of the famous " Swiss Count," Heidegger. Teseo 
was played twelve times, the last performance being a 
benefit for Handel, probably arranged to compensate him 
for MacSwiney's non-fulfilment of his liabilities. At this 
performance, Handel gave between the acts of the opera 
" an entertainment for the harpsichord," the forerunner of 
many similar displays of virtuosity. 

Heidegger, who was one of the most prominent figures 
in London life during a large part of the eighteenth century, 
had so much to do with Handel that there is every excuse 
for lingering a moment over him and his fortunes. He 
was a native of Zurich, and appeared in London about the 
year 1708. His own story was that he came upon a 
diplomatic mission, but failing in his errand was com- 
pelled to enlist in the Guards. How he managed to win 
admittance to the councils of the Queen's Theatre is not 
known, but in 1709 he had a good deal to do with the pro- 
duction of Thomy7'is, and from that time forth he played 
a leading part in the management of opera in London. 
His engaging manners soon established him in the favour 
of the aristocracy, and he became a sort of arbiter 
elega^itiarum in the world of art and fashion. The 
" Swiss Count," as he was always called, was an unusually 
ugly man, and his misshapen features furnished the wits 
of his time with an inexhaustible subject for mirth. The 
taste in humour of the eighteenth century was somewhat 
primitive, and Heidegger, whose business was to get on 
in life, threw self-respect to the winds, and encouraged 
every sort of joke at his own expense. He once laid a 
wager with Lord Chesterfield that, within a given time, 
his lordship would not be able to produce so hideous a 


face in all London. After a strict search, an old woman 
was found, who at first sight was judged uglier even than 
Heidegger. The " Swiss Count," however, seized her 
head-dress, and putting it on himself was at once 
acclaimed the winner. Clever as he was, he was badly 
scored off on another occasion by the facetious Duke of 
Montagu, whose taste for practical joking was extensive 
and peculiar.^ Montagu invited Heidegger to dinner, and, 
in concert with half a dozen other congenial spirits, made 
him so drunk that he was carried unconscious to bed. A 
cast of his face was then taken, and a wax mask con- 
structed. At the next masquerade given by Heidegger at 
the opera-house a man was dressed up in a suit of his 
clothes, disguised in the mask, and smuggled into the 
orchestra. Heidegger was got out of the way under some 
pretext, and, on the entrance of George li and his mistress, 
the Countess of Yarmouth, his double bade the musicians 
strike up the well-known Jacobite tune, " Charlie over the 
water." The confusion and excitement were immense, 
but the King took the joke in good part and, when the 
real Heidegger flew back in consternation and was con- 
fronted by his double, laughed more than any one at the 
absurdity of the situation. Incidents such as this only 
served to increase Heidegger's popularity, and ere long he 
was able to retire to his house at Richmond with an ample 
fortune. " I was born a Swiss," he is reported to have 
said in a discussion as to the respective merits of the 
several European nations, " and came to England without 

^ He never seems to have outgrown it. In 1740 his mother-in-law, the 
old Duchess of Marlborough, wrote of him: "All his talents lie in things 
only natural in boys of fifteen years old, and he is about two-and-fifty ; to 
get people into his garden and wet them with squirts, and to invite people to 
his country houses and put things into their beds to make them itch, and 
twenty such pretty fancies like these." Private Correspondence, vol. ii. 


a farthing, where I have found means to gain five thousand 
pounds a year, and to spend it. Now I defy the most 
able Englishman to go to Switzerland and either to gain 
that income or to spend it there." 

During his first visit to London, Handel had made 
many friends, who now contended for the honour of enter- 
taining him. His first visit was to a Mr. Andrews, of 
Barn-Elms in Surrey, who also possessed a town house 
where Handel had a suite of apartments. Here he stayed 
some months, moving to his friend Lord Burlington's 
palace in Piccadilly before the end of the year. Handel's 
life at Burlington House has been well described by 
Hawkins : " Into this hospitable mansion was Handel 
received, and left at liberty to follow the dictates of his 
genius and invention, assisting frequently at evening 
concerts, in which his own music made the most consider- 
able part. The course of his studies during three years' 
residence at Burlington House was very regular and 
uniform ; his mornings were employed in study, and at 
dinner he sat down with men of the first eminence for 
genius and abilities of any in the kingdom. Here he 
frequently met Pope, Gay, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others of 
that class ; the latter was able to converse with him on 
his art, but Pope understood not, neither had he the least 
ear or relish for music — and he was honest enough to 
confess it. When Handel had no particular engagements, 
he frequently went in the afternoon to St. Paul's Church, 
where Mr. Greene, though he was not then organist, was 
very assiduous in his civilities to him ; by him he was 
introduced to, and made acquainted with, the principal 
performers in the choir. The truth is, that Handel was 
very fond of the St. Paul's organ, built by Father Smith, 
which was then almost a new instrument. Brind was 


then the organist, and no very celebrated performer. The 
tone of the instrument delighted Handel, and a little 
entreaty was at any time sufficient to prevail on him to 
touch it ; but after he had ascended the organ-loft it was 
with reluctance that he left it, and he has been known, 
after evening service, to play to an audience as great as 
ever filled the choir. After his performance was over, it 
was his practice to adjourn with the principal persons 
of the choir to the Queen's Arms Tavern in St. Paul's 
Churchyard, where was a great room, with a harpsichord 
in it, and oftentimes an evening was there spent in music 
and musical conversation." 

Hawkins' facts are doubtless correct, but his chronology 
seems to be a little shaky. The nodes coenaeque deorum 
that he describes must belong to a later date. In 171 2 
Lord Burlington was only seventeen years old — rather an 
early age for a youth, however precocious, to be entertain- 
ing a circle of wits. As a matter of fact, his acquaintance 
with Gay does not seem to have begun till 1715, when the 
poet celebrated his young patron in Trivia : ^ — 

"Yet Burlington's fair Palace still remains; 
Beauty within, without proportion reigns. 
Beneath his Eye declining Art revives, 
The Wall with animated Picture lives ; 
There Handel strikes the strings, the melting strain 
Transports the Soul and thrills through every vein." 

Burlington does not appear in Pope's correspondence 
until 17 18, when Pope wrote to Martha Blount: "I am 
to pass three or four days in high luxury, with some 
company, at my Lord Burlington's. We are to walk 
ride, ramble, dine, drink, and lie together. His gardens 

^ Trivia -was published in January 1716. See Gay's Works, Muses 
Library, vol. i. p. xxxvii. 


are delightful, his music ravishing."^ In the same year 
Pope established himself at Chiswick " under the wing of 
my Lord Burlington," with whom he was by that time on 
intimate terms, if we may judge by Gay's Journey to 
Exeter : — 

"While you, my Lord, bid stately piles ascend 
And in your Chiswick bowers enjoy your friend ; 
Where Pope unloads the bough within his reach, 
The purple vine, blue plum, and blushing peach." 

However, it is likely enough that Handel was staying 
in Burlington House in the autumn of 17 12. He may 
very well have been invited thither by the Dowager 
Countess, who was a great patroness of music, — the 
English version of Gasparini's Antiochus, which was pro- 
duced in 17 1 1, was dedicated to her, — and the fact that 
Teseo was dedicated to Lord Burlington implies some 
kind of connection between Handel and the young 

Rinaldo and Teseo gave Handel a position in the 
musical world of London far more commanding than 
that of any native-born composer, and there is nothing 
surprising in his being chosen to write an ode in celebra- 
tion of Queen Anne's birthday, or to compose the festival 
Te Deum and Jubilate which were sung at the service 
commemorating the Peace of Utrecht. It is possible, 
too, that in the selection of Handel for so keenly coveted 
a position we may trace the friendly influence of Lady 
Burlington, who was one of the Queen's Ladies of the 
Bed-Chamber. The Birthday Ode was performed on 
the 6th of February 17 13, probably in the Chapel Royal 
St. James's, and the Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate at 
St. Paul's on the 7th of July following. The Queen was 

^ Pope, Works, Elwin's edition, vol. ix. p. 264. 


not well enough to be present at the latter service, but 
she heard Handel's music later at St. James's, and con- 
ferred upon him a pension of i^200. Meanwhile, his 
duties at the court of Hanover summoned him in vain. 
The " reasonable time " for which he had received leave 
of absence had long since expired, yet still Rinaldo 
lingered in the enchanted gardens of Armida. Not only 
was Handel playing truant in the most unwarrantable 
fashion, but he was spending his time in the manner of 
all others most surely calculated to displease the Elector : 
accepting favours from Queen Anne, who lost no oppor- 
tunity of showing her dislike of everything connected 
with Hanover, and celebrating the Peace of Utrecht, 
which the German confederate powers viewed with the 
utmost disapproval. It was no wonder, therefore, that 
when George I succeeded to the throne of England, 
on the sudden death of Queen Anne in August 1714, 
Handel did not dare to present himself at the court of 
St. James's, but waited quietly in the security of Burlington 
House to see what turn events would take. It was 
probably about this time that he wrote Silla, a work 
much slighter in scope than any of his previous operas 
which may have been designed for a private performance 
at Burlington House, though no record of its production 
exists. The confusion which had reigned at the opera- 
house in the Haymarket since the flight of MacSwiney 
probably deterred Handel from contributing to its re- 
pertory, but in 171 5 he once more tempted fortune with 
Amadigi, an opera conceived upon a scale at least as 
imposing as that of Rinaldo, and written to a libretto 
by Heidegger, who dedicated it to Lord Burlington in 
terms which make it certain that the music was composed 
by Handel at Burlington House. Nicolini, who had re- 


turned to England in 1714, appeared as the hero, and the 
part of Oriana was sung by the celebrated Anastasia 
Robinson, afterwards Countess of Peterborough, whose 
romantic love-story not long since formed the foundation of 
Mr. George Meredith's novel, Lord Ormont and Jiis Aininta. 

Amadigi was produced on the 25th of May, so late 
in the season that a long run was out of the question. 
Its success, however, was beyond dispute, and it received 
the compliment of parody at the theatres both of Drury 
Lane and Lincoln's Inn Fields. The scenery was so 
unusually elaborate that spectators were not allowed 
upon the stage, as had been customary, and a special 
by-law with regard to encores was issued by the manage- 
ment to this effect : " Whereas by the frequent calling 
for the songs again, the operas have been too tedious ; 
therefore the singers are forbidden to sing any song above 
once ; and it is hoped nobody will call for 'em, or take 
it ill when not obeyed." 

Meanwhile, in spite of all that his friends could urge 
in his behalf, Handel was still an exile from court. King 
George, who liked going to the opera,andeven condescended 
to act as godfather to the infant son of Mme. Durastanti, 
heard Amadigi but refused to pardon the composer. But 
a means of reconciliation was devised by Lord Burlington 
in conjunction with Handel's old friend Baron Kielmansegg, 
who was now the King's Master of the Horse and a 
personage of great consideration, though this was due 
less perhaps to his own merits than to the fact that his 
wife, " the Elephant," as she was nicknamed, shared with 
Mile. Schulenburg — "the Maypole" — the King's most 
intimate favour.^ 

^ It is now the fashion to regard Baroness Kiehnansegg as a much 
maligned person, and a most determined attempt to whitewash her character 


The river Thames was then, far more than now, one 
of the main highways of London. It was still Spenser's 
" silver Thames," and on a summer's day it must have 
presented a picture of life and gaiety very different from 
its present melancholy and deserted aspect. It was 
peopled by an immense fleet of boats devoted solely to 
passenger traffic, which were signalled by passing way- 
farers from numerous piers between Blackfriars and 
Putney, just as one now signals a hansom or taxi-cab. 
Besides the humble boats that plied for hire, there were 
plenty of private barges fitted up with no little luxury, 
and manned by liveried servants. The manners and 
customs of the boatmen were peculiar, and their wit- 
combats, carried on in the rich and expressive vernacular 
of Billingsgate, were already proverbial. However, no 
one seems to have minded. On the water liberty reigned 

has recently been made by her descendant, Baron Erich von Kielmansegg, in 
his edition of the correspondence of Ernest Augustus, George I's youngest 
brother. She was undoubtedly George's half-sister, being the daughter of 
his father's mistress Countess Platen, but those who know what was the 
standard of morality at the Hanoverian court will require a more cogent 
argument than this to convince them, in the teeth of all contemporary opinion, 
that George's relations with the Baroness were purely fraternal. Undoubtedly 
she was extremely unpopular in England — more, it is to be feared, because 
she was ugly, rapacious, and a foreigner than from any very exalted ideas upon 
the subject of morality. There is a story that one day when she was driving 
abroad, soon after her arrival in England, the mob became abusive, where- 
upon she put her head out of the window and cried in shocking English : 
" Good people, why do you abuse us ? We come for all your goods." " Ay, 
damn ye," answered a fellow in the crowd, "and for all our chattels too." 
Horace Walpole's description of this atrocious harpy is worth transcribing : 
" I remember as a boy being terrified at her enormous figure. Two fierce 
black eyes, large and rolling beneath two lofty arched eyebrows, two acres 
of cheeks spread with crimson, an ocean of neck that overflowed and was 
not distinguished from the lower part of her body, and no part restrained by 
stays — no wonder that a child dreaded such an ogress ! " 


supreme. There was a tacit understanding that things 
were there permitted which in the prosaic sobriety of the 
streets would have savoured of indecorum. George I 
Hked the river. When the court was at Whitehall 
water-parties to Richmond or Hampton Court were of fre- 
quent occurrence, and as often as not the royal barge 
was accompanied by an attendant boat laden with 

Taking advantage of the King's taste for music, and 
of the recognised aquatic licence already referred to, 
Kielmansegg and Burlington bade Handel compose a 
suite of gay dance movements, hired a competent orchestra, 
and arranged that on the occasion of the next royal 
water-party — possibly that mentioned by the Flying 
Post, soon after the King's coronation, when, George I 
and his court rowed from Whitehall to Limehouse, and 
"were diverted by a concert of music on board, which 
was elegantly performed by the best masters and instru- 
ments" — Handel and his musicians should follow the 
King's barge, discoursing the famous composition which 
ever since has been known as the Water Music.^ The 

^ Aquatic serenades of this kind were popular at the time. There is a 
description of one in Mrs. Delany's Correspondence (vol. i. p. ^o)•. "Last 
Wednesday I was all night upon the water with Lady Harriot Harley. We 
went into the barge at five in the afternoon and landed at Whitehall Stairs. 
We rowed up the river as far as Richmond, and were entertained all the time 
with very good musick in another barge. The concert was composed of 
three hautboys, two bassoons, flute allemagne, and young Grenoc's {sic) 

2 The evidence to prove that the Water Music was composed in 17 1 5 is 
almost overwhelming. At the same time it is interesting to know that a very 
similar performance took place two years later, which is recorded in the 
Daily Courattt of 19th July 1717 : "On Wednesday evening (July 17) at 
about eight the King took water at Whitehall in an open barge, wherein 
were also the Duchess of Bolton, the Duchess of Newcastle, the Countess of 


plot succeeded ; the King was pleased, and asked the 
name of the composer, which gave Kielmansegg an 
opportunity of pleading his friend's cause. George was 
in a melting mood, and felt that Handel had endured 
exile from his sacred presence long enough. The com- 
poser was summoned from the neighbouring barge and 
duly forgiven. 

Handel made his first appearance at a court concert 
shortly afterwards, at the special request of another old 
friend, Geminiani the violinist, who had recently estab- 
lished himself in London. Geminiani was notoriously 
difficult to accompany. Burney says that he lost the 
post of leader of the opera-band at Naples because " none 

Godolphin, Madam Kilmanseck, and the Earl of Orkney, and went up the 
river towards Chelsea. Many other barges with persons of quality attended, 
and so great a number of boats, that the whole river in a manner was covered. 
A City Company's barge was employed for the music, wherein were fifty 
instruments of all sorts, who played all the way from Lambeth, while the 
barges drove with the tide without rowing as far as Chelsea, the finest 
symphonies, composed express for this occasion by Mr. Hendel, which His 
Majesty liked so well that he caused it to be played over three times in going 
and returning. At eleven his Majesty went ashore at Chelsea, where a 
supper was prepared, and then there was another very fine consort of music, 
which lasted till two, after which His Majesty came again into his barge and 
returned the same way, the music continuing to play until he landed." 
Another account, in The Political State of Great Britain, mentions that the 
music was under the direction of Baron Kielmansegg. When Chrysander 
wrote the first volume of his biography of Handel in 1858 he followed the 
contemporary authorities in attributing the Water Music to the year 17 15. 
In 1867, however, in his third volume, in discussing Handel's instrumental 
works he seems inclined to think that it was actually performed for the first 
time in I7l7' Twenty years later ( Vierteljahrsschrift fiir Mttsikwissen- 
schaft, Jahrg. iii., 1887) he recanted his heresy, and returned to his original 
opinion. It is quite possible that the Water Music as we now know it was 
not all written for the same occasion. Its twenty-five numbers may very 
well represent Handel's share in numerous water-parties. It should be 
remembered that the Water Music was not published until 1740. 


of the performers were able to follow him in his tempo 
rubato," and Tartini christened him "il furibondo 
Geminiani," He had written some new concertos, which 
he was anxious to perform, but he declared that nobody 
but Handel could play the harpsichord part. It was a 
case of no Handel, no concerto, and George I, nothing 
loth, gave way. Handel was thus fully reinstated in the 
royal favour, and the reconciliation was cemented by 
the King's allotting him a pension of i^200, in addition 
to that already given him by Queen Anne, A few years 
later he received yet another pension of the same amount 
from the Princess of Wales, his old friend and patroness 
Caroline of Ansbach, on his appointment as music master 
to her little daughters. This ^600 he continued to enjoy 
for the rest of his life. 

When George I landed in England, he frankly con- 
fessed that he did not expect to stay long. The Jacobites 
were powerful and determined, and he took up his 
residence at St. James's in the full expectation of being 
turned out bag and baggage at no distant date. At first 
it seemed that his predictions were going to be fulfilled. 
The King himself made no secret of his dislike for 
England and everything English — even our oysters were 
so different from the stale ones to which he was 
accustomed at Hanover that they had to be kept for 
a day or two to suit his palate. He was unpopular, his 
mistresses were more unpopular still, and the crowd of 
hungry " Hanoverian rats," as the people called them, 
who settled upon the court and country and snatched all 
the best places from under the noses of English aspirants, 
brought the new dynasty into general disfavour. But as 
time passed on, his position grew more secure. The 
English people as a whole cared very little who ruled 


them, so long as they were let alone, and the Hanoverian 
dynasty was probably as good or as bad as another. 
The Jacobite rising of 171 5 collapsed, the Septennial 
Act was passed, and in the summer of 17 16 George 
thought he might allow himself a holiday and pay a 
visit to his beloved Hanover. On the eve of his departure 
he held a Drawing-room. " The King in mighty good 
humour," wrote Lady Cowper. " When I wished him a good 
journey and a quick return, he looked as if the last part 
of my speech was needless, and that he did not think 
of it." George set out for Hanover on 9th July 17 16, 
accompanied by a numerous suite, including both his 
mistresses and his Kapellmeister Handel. Hanover 
received them with open arms, and George put aside the 
splendid dulness and wearisome etiquette of St. James's 
with delight, and settled down to his pipes and his beer 
and his snuffy clothes with the utmost relief. 

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who stopped at Hanover 
for a short time on her way to Constantinople, found it 
v-ery gay and very crowded. " The King," she wrote, 
" has had the goodness to appoint us a lodging in the 
palace, without which we should be very ill accommodated, 
for the vast number of English crowds the town so much, 
it is very good luck to be able to get one sorry room in 
a miserable tavern. . . . The King's company of French 
comedians play here every night. They are very well 
dressed, and some of them not ill actors. His Majesty 
dines and sups constantly in public. The court is very 
numerous, and his affability and goodness make it one 
of the most agreeable places in the world." The success 
of the French comedians seems to have left no room for 
opera, and Handel must have found time hang heavy on 
his hands. He amused himself by setting to music a 


poetical version of the story of the Passion by Barthold 
Brockes, a distinguished citizen of Hamburg, which had 
already been set by Keiser, and was subsequently set by 
Telemann and Mattheson.^ He also found time for a 
visit to Halle, where his mother still lived. His old friend 
Zachow was dead, and his widow, who was left in poor 
circumstances, was thankful for the assistance that Handel 
generously gave. His travels extended as far as Ansbach, 
whither probably he went with some commission from the 
Princess of Wales. There he found an old college friend, 
Johann Christopher Schmidt, whom he induced to migrate 
to London and to live with him as his secretary and 
factotum. Schmidt had a son of thirteen in whom 
Handel took a friendly interest, paying for his schooling, 
and watching over him with almost paternal affection. 
In due time the boy, who anglicised his name into Smith, 

^ There is a good deal of uncertainty as to the genesis of Handel's Brockes 
Passion. Mattheson says in his Ehren-Pforte that it was " composed in 
England and sent by post to Hamburg in an uncommonly close-written score," 
but Mattheson's sketch of Handel's career is so thickly sown with inaccuracies 
that it is difficult to put much faith in any of his statements. It is at least 
probable that the fact of his being on German soil turned Handel's thoughts 
in the direction of German oratorio, and the eulogies of Reiser's setting of 
Brockes's Passion, which he must almost unavoidably have heard at Hanover, 
may very well have tempted him to pay his old rival out in his own coin for 
the impertinence of having re-set Abnira ten years before. Mr. P. Robinson, 
in his recent work, Handel and his Orbit, inclines to the theory that Handel 
wrote his Passion for performance in England before the German-speaking 
King and his court. There has been a half-hearted attempt made in recent 
years to whitewash George I, and to present him as a highly moral and 
respectable person, but even his most devoted advocates have not ventured 
to claim [much for him on the score of piety ; and the notion of the old 
reprobate sitting in the Chapel Royal, with the "Elephant" and the 
"Maypole" enthroned like cherubim, the one on his right hand and the 
other on his left, snuffling in concert over the Passion music, is, to borrow 
a phrase of Mr. Andrew Lang's, a little too steep ! 


succeeded his father as Handel's amanuensis, and later in 
his career won considerable fame as a composer. 

King George left for England on the 5th of January 
17 1 7, and there is no reasonable ground for doubting that 
Handel went with him. There was nothing for him to 
do at Hanover, and his presence was urgently needed in 
London, where a revival of Rinaldo took place on the very 
day he left Hanover, while another of Amadigi v^^iS, close 
at hand. He took with him his setting of the Brockes 
Passion^ as it is usually called to distinguish it from the 
John Passion written in 1704, had it copied in London, 
and sent it to Hamburg, where it was performed in Lent 


MUSIC, 1718-1726 

JAMES BRYDGES, first Duke of Chandos, was the 
cynosure of his age. His splendour and extrava- 
gance, his generosity and ostentation, made him the 
talk of the town. As Paymaster to the British forces he 
had amassed an immense fortune, by means which Swift 
branded in the famous line — 

" Since all he got by fraud he lost by stocks," 

and he signalised his retirement by building the magnifi- 
cent palace of Canons, close to the village of Edgware, 
where he lived in regal state surrounded by crowds of 
lackeys and parasites. Everything at Canons was in the 
grand style. Pope, who satirised Chandos in his Epistle 
to Lord Burlington, made fun of the princely owner's 
megalomania : — 

" To compass this, his building is a town, 
His pond an ocean, his parterre a down," 

and ridiculed the tasteless magnificence that reigned 
in every corner. But humbler mortals bowed before 
splendour so profuse. Defoe's fluent vocabulary scarcely 
served to sing the praises of Canons.^ " It is in vain," 
he wrote, " to attempt to describe the beauties of this 

^ Tour in England, 1725, vol. ii. 


building; and as the Firmament is a glorious Mantle 
filled with, or as it were made up of a Concurrence of 
lesser glories the stars, so every part of this Building 
adds to the beauty of the whole." The Duke, if not 
himself a musician, fully appreciated the importance of 
music in adding to the dignity of every kind of ceremony. 
His private chapel at Canons was a masterpiece of its 
kind, designed in imitation of the fashionable baroque 
Italian style, and painted with sprawling cherubs by 
Bellucci and Zamen,^ and the music was worthy of its 
shrine. Pope of course sneered at it : — 

"And now the Chapel's silver bell you hear, 
That summons you to all the pride of prayer ; 
Light quirks of music, broken and uneven, 
Make the soul dance upon a jig to Heaven." 

But Pope was notoriously ignorant of music, and other 
authorities give a very different account. Defoe says : 
" The Chapel is a singularity not only in its building and 
the beauty of its workmanship, but in this also, that the 
Duke maintains there a full Choir, and has the Worship 
performed there with the best musick, after the manner 
of the Chapel Royal, which is not done in any other 
Nobleman's Chapel in Britain, no not the Prince of 
Wales's, though heir apparent to the Crown. Nor is this 
Chapel only furnished with such excellent musick, but the 
Duke has a set of them to entertain him every day at dinner." 
It has often been said that when Canons was pulled 
down, the chapel was left standing, and became the 
parish church of Whitchurch, which still exists. This, 
like so many other Handelian traditions which have been 
religiously copied by one biographer from another, is a 
piece of pure romance. The private chapel at Canons 

1 Pope, Letter to Aaron Hill, 5th February 1732. 


and the parish church of Whitchurch were two perfectly- 
distinct buildings. Both are mentioned in A Joiivfiey 
through England, 1722, vol. ii. : "The Chapel, which is 
already furnished, hath a choir of Vocal and Instrumental 
Musick. . . . The Front from the great stairs is to the 
East, and hath an Avenue directly from it down to the 
Parish Church, at above half a mile's distance." Another 
baseless tradition relates to the organ in Whitchurch 
Church, which bears the inscription : " Handel was organist 
of this Church from the year 17 1 8 to 172 1, and composed 
the oratorio of Esther on this organ." 

It is scarcely necessary to observe that musicians do 
not compose oratorios " on the organ," and even if Handel 
had done so it would not have been on the Whitchurch 
organ, but upon the fine Jordan organ in the private 
chapel at Canons, which at the Chandos sale in 1747 was 
purchased for Trinity Church, Gosport, where it may 
still be seen, bearing the Chandos coat of arms. Yet 
another tradition is concerned with the Duke himself 
arid his third wife, whom he is alleged to have bought 
from a groom who was ill-treating her. There is some 
foundation for the story, though the hero of it was not 
Handel's patron, but his son Henry, the second Duke.i 

The princely Chandos, in music, as in everything else, 
was determined to have the best that could be procured! 
His choir and orchestra were carefully chosen, and he 
made up his mind that the leader should be worthy ot 
the forces at his disposal. His first musical director was 
John Christopher Pepusch, a German musician who had 
settled in London about the year 1690 and made a good 
position for himself as a teacher. Pepusch was a capable 

1 Robinson, The Princely Ckatzdos ; and Did. of Nat. Biog., sub voce 
Brydges, James. 


musician, but the divine fire seldom touched his lips, and 
probably the Duke, like Mrs. Delany, soon found out 
that his music was "very humdrum."^ At any rate, in 
1718 he either resigned or was displaced in favour of 
Handel, who finding that there was nothing to be done in 
London in the way ot opera, of which the fickle world 
of fashion seemed suddenly to have weaned, gladly 
accepted the Duke's offer, left London to its French 
ballets and farces, and established himself at Canons. 
Handel's position at Canons corresponded with that 
occupied by Haydn in the household of Prince Esterhazy 
some years later, but Handel's duties did not apparently 
include the supply of Tafelniusik required to aid his 
patron's digestion. He seems to have written no 
orchestral music at Canons, but his best energies were 
devoted to the production of the magnificent series of 
" Chandos " anthems, which were performed in the ducal 
chapel with the utmost pomp and circumstance. A 
setting of the Te Deum dates also from this period, 
and — more important still — his first English oratorio, 
Esther, and the serenata. Acts and Galatea. It is very 
much to be regretted that so little is known of the 
circumstances in which two works of such exceptional 
importance in the history of Handel's musical develop- 
ment were written and produced — Acis, the summing up, 
as it were, of all that Italy had taught the composer ; 
Esther, the first step upon the new pathway that was 
ultimately to lead him to fame, fortune, and immortality. 
It has been often stated that Esther was produced on 
the 29th August 1720, but this is merely a conjecture. 
What really happened at Canons on that date may be 
read in the Weekly Journal for 3rd September 1720 : 

^ Delany, Correspondence, vol. i. 


" His Grace the Duke of Chandos's domestic Chapel, at 
his seat at Canons, Edgware, curiously adorned with 
paintings on the windows and ceilings, had Divine 
Worship performed in it with an Anthem on Monday 
last (29th August), it being the first time of its being 
opened." It is scarcely possible that the " Anthem " in 
question can have been Esther. Handel himself described 
his new venture into the realm of oratorio as a masque, 
and undoubtedly he intended that it should be performed 
with scenery, dresses, and action — in fact precisely as it 
was given in 1732 at Bernard Gates's house by the 
children of the Chapel Royal. The idea of performing 
an oratorio in ordinary concert form was a much later 
development. The libretto of Esther, which is an 
adaptation of Racine's famous drama, has been attributed 
to a certain Samuel Humphreys, who wrote a dull poem 
on Canons which he dedicated to the Duke of Chandos, 
and later in his career supplied Handel with the librettos 
of AtJialiah and Deboi-ah. It is more likely, however, that 
it was the work of Pope, who at any rate never denied the 
soft impeachment, though it is possible that Arbuthnot, to 
whom it is ascribed in some of the early text-books, had a 
hand in it. Acis, which was probably produced in 1721, 
was the work of Handel's old friend Gay. The Burlington 
circle thus had its share in the new development of Handel's 
genius, and it is not too much to assume that the idea of 
English oratorio took shape in the discussions around the 
hospitable board of Handel's earliest English patron. 

Handel's association with Canons did not cut him off 
altogether from London life. Two of his letters written 
in 1719 are dated from London: the one a courteous 
refusal to contribute an autobiography to Mattheson's 
Ehren-Pforte, and the other an affectionate letter of 


sympathy to his brother-in-law Michaelsen, who had lost 
his wife a short time before. It was, too, during his 
residence at Canons that he was appointed music master 
to the daughters of his old friend Caroline, the Princess 
of Wales. There exists in the Buckingham Palace 
Library a copy by Smith of a set of " Lessons composed 
for the Princess Louisa," and it is more than possible that 
the famous Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin, which were 
published in November 1720, owe their origin to the neces- 
sities of Handel's royal pupils. Many fair fingers must have 
itched to play the pieces that the illustrious young ladies 
were daily strumming in their schoolroom in Leicester 
Fields, and the musical pirates of the day were equal to the 
occasion. In his preface to the first edition, Handel observed 
that he had been " obliged to publish some of the following 
lessons, because surreptitious and incorrect copies of them 
had got abroad," adding with his habitual courtliness that 
he reckoned it his duty with his small talent to serve a 
nation from which he had received so generous a protection. 
One of the pieces is the famous air with variations 
now universally known as " The Harmonious Blacksmith," 
which has probably occasioned the writing of more 
nonsense than any other musical composition in the world. 
The origin of the foolish nickname is unknown, but it 
certainly dates from long after Handel's time. The 
earliest known edition on which it appears was published 
in 1820. The title is obviously a publisher's catch-penny 
invention, like that affixed with the same wantonness to 
Beethoven's so-called " Moonlight " sonata. There is not 
a shadow of foundation for the absurd stories that have 
been fabricated in order to account for the name, but they 
have been copied and repeated so often by men who 
ought to have known better, that it is probably useless at 


this time of day to attempt to explode them. Follies ot 
this kind die hard, and the legend of Handel's friend, the 
blacksmith of Edgware, with his hammer, anvil, and 
other appurtenances, baseless fabric of a vision as it is, 
will probably live until the cloud-capped towers of Handel's 
fame themselves dissolve and leave not a rack behind. 

Handel lived a busy life at this time. He had duties 
in London as well as at Canons, and he must have learnt 
to know every tree on the Edgware Road by heart. 
Travelling in those days, though more tedious than at 
present, had a spice of excitement which is denied to us. 
Here, for instance, is a specimen incident of the time, 
recorded by the Weekly Journal of the 1 1 th of February 
1720, of which it is quite possible that Handel himself was 
a witness : " On Monday as the Duke of Chandos was 
riding to his beautiful house at Edgware, and being before 
his retinue some distance, two highwaymen came up and 
bid him deliver his money, but his servants coming in 
view fired their pistols, as did the highwaymen, but neither 
hurt or killed. One of the highwaymen quitted his horse 
and jumped over the hedge, and was followed by one of 
the Duke's servants, who knocked him down and took 
him, and the other was pursued to Tyburn and there 
taken. Both were committed to Newgate." 

Early in 17 19 the town, which had contrived to get 
through two years without an opera, save for an attempt 
at a season of English opera conducted by Owen 
MacSwiney at the Little Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, 
suddenly awoke to a sense of its deprivation. The South 
Sea Bubble was in the heyday of its success, and com- 
pany promoting was in the air. Following the fashion of 
the day, a number of the nobility and gentry put their 
heads together and founded the Royal Academy of Music, 


which, in spite of its high-sounding name, was only a 
company for the production of Italian opera at the King's 
Theatre in the Haymarket. The capital subscribed was 
;^50,ooo, in 500 shares of £100, and the King headed the list 
with ^1000. The company was ruled by a governor, deputy 
governor, and twenty directors. The first year the Duke of 
Newcastle was governor, Lord Bingley deputy governor, 
and the directors, of whom Lord Burlington was naturally 
one, were chosen from the finest flower of rank and fashion. 
The Academy started with the brightest promise. 
Everything was to be the best of its kind. Handel 
naturally headed the list of musical directors, and 
with him were associated Giovanni Maria Bononcini, a 
brother of the Marcantonio whose Camilla had proved 
so much to the taste of London audiences, and Attilio 
Ariosti. Paolo Rolli and Nicola Haym were appointed 
poets to the establishment, and Heidegger was the stage 
manager. It was a curious fate that thus put Handel 
into the company of the two men with whom, if an oft- 
repeated legend is true, he had been thrust into rivalry 
in Berlin some years before. The omen was not favour- 
able, but no gloomy forebodings troubled the sanguine 
promoters of the new scheme. Handel was at once 
dispatched to the Continent to enlist a nc.v company of 
singers. He left London at the end of February 17 19, 
journeying first to Diisseldorf, where he engaged Benedetto 
Baldassarri, and then proceeding to Dresden, where the 
opera was at that time particularly good. There he 
secured the services of Senesino, the most famous castrato 
of the age, a worthless man but a marvellous artist ; of 
Signora Durastanti, who had sung in Agrippina at Venice 
in 1709; of Boschi, the well-known bass, and of several 
others. Business over, he turned to pleasure, and paid a 

l',,"'|iiiii;i'ii^/ I'l'-ijuii^' 


visit to his mother at Halle. While he was there he might, 
had fate been propitious, have made the acquaintance 
of Johann Sebastian Bach, who at that time graced 
the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen. Bach, 
hearing that his famous contemporary was actually stay- 
ing within forty miles, journeyed to Halle in order to 
meet him. But he had given Handel no warning of his 
intended visit, and when he reached Halle, he found 
that Handel had set out for England the day before. 
Bach's disappointment was doubtless great, but ours may 
be tempered by the reflection that had the two men met, no 
record of their conversation would probably have been pre- 
served, or that if it had it would doubtless have been as 
little worthy of so unique an occasion as was the famous 
interview between Jackson and Nansen on the ice-floes of 
Franz Josef Land. They might, however, have compared 
notes as to their respective impressions of the court of 
Dresden, where Handel had just been presented with the 
handsome sum of a hundred ducats for playing the harp- 
sichord to the King and Crown Prince ; whereas Bach, 
who a year before had vanquished the French performer 
Marchand in single combat, was swindled out of his fee 
by a knavish courtier. Handel might have amused Bach, 
too, by telling him how his independent manners had 
shocked the aristocratic flunkeys at Dresden. A certain 
Count von Flemming, in particular, seems to have had 
his feelings sadly outraged. Writing to Melusine von 
Schulenburg,^ who was a pupil of Handel's, he observes 

^ Melusine von Schulenburg was a daughter of George I's notorious mistress, 
the Duchess of Kendal. In 1733 she married the famous Lord Chesterfield, 
whose biographer, Dr. Maty, Principal Librarian of the British Museum, observes 
that " her amiableness of character, the accomplishments of her mind, her taste 
for the fine arts, and in particular for music, rendered her a fit companion for 
Lord Chesterfield." {Miscellaneous Works of Lord Chesterfield, \']']'j,-^o\. i. p. 71.) 


querulously : " I tried to get a word with Mr. Handel, and 
to pay him some civility for your sake, but I could do 
nothing. I used your name in inviting him to come to 
see me, but he was always out or else ill. To tell the 
truth, I think he is a little mad ! " ^ 

Handel returned in due course to London, where about 
this time he established himself in the house in Brook 
Street, which remained his home for the rest of his life.^ On 
the 2nd of April 1720 the Royal Academy of Music opened 
its campaign with Giovanni Porta's Niunitore^ a useful 
stop-gap, which served to keep the subscribers amused until 
the great novelty of the season, Handel's Radamisto, was 
ready. The latter aroused an unusual amount of interest. 
While the rehearsals were in progress it was the favourite 
topic of the coffee-houses, and it drew an epigram from 
the great Sir Isaac Newton. Dr. Stukeley, the celebrated 
antiquary, records in his diary a meeting with the famous 
philosopher, then in extreme old age: ''April 18, — At the 
Lincolnshire Feast, Ship Tavern, Temple Bar, — present. 
Sir Isaac Newton. Upon my mentioning to him the 
rehearsal of the opera to-night {Radamisto), he said he 
never was at more than one opera. The first act he heard 
with pleasure, the second stretched his patience, at the 
third he ran away."^ Radamisto, after a postponement 
" by Royal Command," was finally produced with great 
pomp and circumstance on the 27th of April. All London 
turned out to do honour to the popular composer, and to 
criticise the new singers. As a matter of fact, neither 

' Opel, Rlittheilungeit zur Geschichte der Familie Handel. 

" Handel's name first appears in the rate books of St. George's, Hanover 
Square, in 1725, but some years ago Dr. W. H. Cummings, while examining 
the house, discovered a fine cast-lead cistern, on the firont of which was the 
inscription, " 1721 G.F.H." 

^ William Stukeley, Family Memoirs [Surtees Society], vol. i. p. 59. 


Senesino nor Durastanti sang in the original production 
of Radamisto, though both appeared in a revival of it a 
few months later. An entry in Lady Cowper's diary gives 
a curt memorandum of the event. " At night Radamistus, 
a fine opera of Handel's making. The King there with 
his ladies. The Prince in the stage-box. Great crowd." 
The crowd was great indeed, and Mainwaring's descrip- 
tion of the scene sounds like a prophetic vision of the 
riotous frenzy that accompanied the Jenny Lind furore 
more than a century later : " There was no shadow of 
form or ceremony, scarce indeed any appearance of order 
or regularity, politeness or decency. Many, who had 
forced their way into the house with an impetuosity but 
ill suited to their rank and sex, actually fainted through 
the excessive heat and closeness of it. Several gentlemen 
were turned back, who had offered forty shillings for a seat 
in the gallery, after having despaired of getting any in the 
pit or boxes." Radamisto carried the opera on to the end 
of the season, and in the following autumn Senesino 
appeared for the first time in Bononcini's Astarto, 
Bononcini's pretty tunes and Senesino's marvellous 
voice ^ between them captivated the ear of the public. 
Astarto ran for something like thirty nights, and Bon- 
oncini became in public opinion a dangerous rival to 

So high did party feeling run between the sup- 
porters of the two composers, that the directors of the 
Royal Academy finally hit upon a curious method of 

^ It is difficult for us moderns to realise what the voice of a castrato was 
like. The expression used by Burney, of a song being "thundered out" 
by the voice of Senesino, proves it must have been something very different 
from anything that is now to be heard. It must have had all the force of a 
tenor or bass voice, with the compass of a soprano or contralto. 


settling the point of precedence. They persuaded the 
rival musicians to collaborate, and arranged to produce a 
new opera of which the third act was to be written by 
Handel, and the second by Bononcini, the first falling to 
the lot of Filippo Mattei, usually called " Pipo." ^ Muzio 
Scevola, the hybrid opera in question, was produced on 
the 15th of April 1721. Naturally enough, it won little 
success, indeed at the first performance the audience took 
much less interest in the music than in the news of the 
birth of the Duke of Cumberland, which was announced 
during the evening.^ Nor did Muzio Scevola settle for 
a moment the controversy as to the respective merits 
of the rival composers, which raged indeed more fiercely 
after the production than before it. Meanwhile, the affairs 
of the Academy were not prospering. The audiences 
were good, but the enormous expenses swallowed up 
every penny of profit, and frequent calls were made 
upon the subscribers in order to cover the season's 
expenses. During the season of 1721-22, however, the 
tide turned, and a dividend of 7 per cent, was declared. 
The chief cause of this happy state of affairs was 
Bononcini, whose Crispo and Griselda scored great 
successes during the spring of 1722. Handel was less 
successful with his Floridante, which appeared on the 
9th of December 1721, with Senesino in the principal part. 

^ An ambiguous passage in Mainwaring's Memoirs has given rise to a 
tradition, which has been copied by later writers, that the first act of Muzio 
Scevola was v/ritten by Attilio Ariosti. Contemporary evidence, however, 
makes it certain that Mattei was the composer. In Opel's Alittheihmgen 
ztir Geschichte der Familie Handel, a letter is quoted from Fabrice to Count 
von Flemming in which the question is settled beyond a doubt. " Chaque acte 
de cet opera," he says, "est d'un compositeur different, le premier par un 
nomme Pipo, le second par Bononcini, et le troisieme par Hendell, qui I'a 
emporte haut a la main." 

^ See the letter already quoted in Opel's Mittheilungen. 


His women singers did not do him justice. Durastanti 
was not a success. The English public thought her hard 
and masculine, and Anastasia Robinson was not musician 
enough to sing his music as it should be sung. In 
Bononcini's simpler strains she did well enough. A 
trifling little ballad like " Per la gloria" was well within 
her powers, and it was as the patient heroine of Griselda, 
in which this song occurs, that she is supposed to have 
completed her conquest of Lord Peterborough's 
susceptible heart. 

But a singer was already on her way to England 
who was destined to restore to Handel his rightful 
supremacy, and to put a speedy end to Bononcini's 
shortlived triumph — the famous Francesca Cuzzoni. 
Meanwhile the autumn season had begun, and the 
wheels of Cuzzoni's chariot were lingering. Handel grew 
impatient, and sent his trusty lieutenant Sandoni in 
search of her. Sandoni's quest was successful. He 
brought Cuzzoni to England in triumph — as his wife. 
Why Sandoni married the most famous singer of the day 
is easy to comprehend, but why Cuzzoni married a 
humble accompanist is a more difficult problem to solve. 
Whatever may have been her reasons, she soon repented 
of them. She led Sandoni a woeful life for a few years, 
and then poisoned him. But this is to anticipate too 
much. Cuzzoni made her English debut in Handel's 
Ottone, which was produced on the 12th of January 1723. 
She became at once the spoiled darling of the fashionable 
world, and retained her pride of place until her great rival 
Faustina appeared upon the scene in 1726, when a 
struggle for supremacy began to which the Handel- 
Bononcini controversy was mere child's play. Cuzzoni was 
a singularly unattractive woman. " She was short and 


squat," says Horace Walpole, " with a cross face, but fine 
complexion ; was not a good actress ; dressed ill, and was 
silly and fantastical." Her disposition did not belie her 
face. She had the temper of a fiend, and was as obstinate 
as a mule. But in Handel she met her match. He 
opened their acquaintance by observing in his gruffest 
tones, " Oh, Madame, je sais bien que vous etes une 
veritable diablesse, mais je vous ferai savoir, moi, que je 
suis Beelzebub, le chef des diables." Encouraged by this 
greeting, she flatly refused to sing the beautiful air, 
" Falsa immagine," which Handel had set down as her 
opening song, whereupon he seized her round the waist 
and threatened to throw her out of the window. Cuzzoni 
owned herself beaten, sang the song, and in a moment had 
London at her feet. Her voice must have been wonder- 
ful, and her singing miraculous even for the eighteenth 
century. Burney speaks of a " native warble " which 
concealed the consummate art of her technique. " Her 
shake," he says, " was perfect, her high notes unrivalled 
in clearness and sweetness, and her intonation so just 
that she seemed incapable of singing out of tune." She 
charmed alike rich and poor, high and low. Mrs. Delany 
laughed at her nonsensical tricks, but adored her singing. 
*' This morning," she wrote, " I was entertained with 
Cuzzoni. Oh ! how charming ! How did I wish for all I 
love and like to be with me at that instant of time. My 
senses were ravished with harmony." More epigrammatic 
and no less enthusiastic was a groom in the gallery, who, 
while Cuzzoni was singing a song in Ottone, cried out, 
" Damn her, she has got a nest of nightingales in her 

Cuzzoni had to the full the modern prima donna's 
talent for self-advertisement. She took good care that 


the public should be kept au fait with all her movements. 
When she presented her husband with a son and heir, the 
details of her confinement were the talk of the coffee- 
houses. Every one knew that she went to bed singing 
" La speranza," and bothered her husband into buying her 
a gigantic looking-glass and a black silk hood. But in 
spite of her follies she could be charming when she chose. 
Lady Bristol met her at a party, and was loud in her 
praises : " Cuzzoni was in high good humour. She sent 
for Whyburn with his lute, and sung for two hours like a 
nightingale. She has learnt two English ballads, which 
she makes the agreeablest thing you ever heard." ^ 

The combination of Handel's music and Cuzzoni's voice 
dealt a severe blow to the Bononcini faction. Now that 
Handel had at his command a singer capable of doing 
justice to his music, his superiority was indisputable. 
In October 1722, Lady Bristol wrote to her husband : 
" Bononcini is dismissed the theatre for operas, which I 
believe you and some of your family will regret. The 
reason they give for it is his most extravagant demands."^ 
Six months later, Mrs. Delany observed : " The young 
Duchess of Marlborough has settled upon Bononcini for 
his life ^500 a year, provided he will not compose any 
more for the ungrateful Academy, who do not deserve 
that he should entertain them, since they don't know how 
to value his works as they ought, and likewise told him he 
should always be welcome to her table." Bononcini took 
the money, but apparently the quarrel was patched up, 
for he went on writing operas for the Academy. At any 
rate his Farnace and Calfurnia were both produced after 
this date, but his star was on the decline and the vogue of 
his music was over so far as the general public was 

^ Letter Book of John Hervey, Earl of Bristol, vol. ii. 


concerned, though the compact little phalanx of his 
admirers supported him through thick and thin, and we 
read of concerts given by his patroness, the Duchess of 
Marlborough, at which only his music was performed. 

People still chattered about the respective merits of 
the triumvirate. Gay wrote to Swift early in 1723 : "As 
for the reigning amusement of the town, it is entirely 
music, real fiddles, bass viols and hautboys, not poetical 
harps, lyres and reeds. There's nobody allowed to say I 
sing, but an eunuch or an Italian woman. Everybody is 
grown now as great a judge of music as they were in your 
time of poetry, and folks that could not distinguish one 
tune from another, now daily dispute about the different 
styles of Handel, Bononcini and Attilio." ^ 

About this time Byrom produced his celebrated epi- 
gram, which, familiar as it is, is too witty to be omitted : — 

" Some say, compar'd to Bononcini, 
That Mynheer Handel's but a ninny ; 
Others aver that he to Handel', 
Is scarcely fit to hold a candle. 
Strange, all this difference should be 
'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee ! " ^ 

^ Swift, Correspondence. 

- John Byrom was a facile and fluent writer of verse, and attained some 
degree of fame by his invention of a new system of shorthand. He seems 
actually to have written his famous epigram on the 22nd of February 1725, 
according to his fournal (published by the Chetham Society), in which occurs 
the entry : ' ' Wrote some verses to Leycester about the Opera," on that date. 
It does not appear, however, to have been widely circulated until a few 
months later. On May 9 i\iQ Journal observes: "Mr. Leycester left my 
epigram upon Handel and Bononcini in shorthand for Jemmy Ord " ; and on 
the l8th : " Mr. Leycester came there [to George's Coffee-House], and Bob 
Ord, who was come home from Cambridge, where he said he had made the 
whole Hall laugh at Trinity College, and got himself honour by my epigram 
upon Handel and Bononcini." By June 5 it had found its way into the 


Meanwhile, Handel continued his triumphant career with 
Flavio (14th May 1723), but his singers still gave him a 
good deal of trouble. Cuzzoni was by no means the only 
offender. For a quite insignificant part in Flavio he 
engaged a young English singer named Gordon, who 
seems to have entertained an uncommonly good opinion 
of his own musicianship. At any rate, one day when 
Handel was rehearsing with him the one song allotted to 
him in the opera, " Fato tiranno," he had the impertinence 
to criticise the composer's method of accompanying. 
This was more than Handel could put up with, and in 
a vigorous mixture of half a dozen languages he told 
Gordon to mind his own business. A quarrel ensued, and 
Gordon finished by declaring that if Handel persisted in 
accompanying him in that manner he would jump upon 
his harpsichord and smash it to pieces. " Oh," replied 
Handel, "let me know when you will do that, and I will 
advertise it ; for I am sure more people will come to see 
you jump, than to hear you sing." Giulio Cesare (20th 
February 1724) was one of Handel's most brilliant 
masterpieces, in which Senesino's declamation of the 
accompanied recitative " Alma del gran Pompeo " was 
the talk of the town. Senesino won less honourable 
notoriety shortly afterwards by a quarrel with Anastasia 
Robinson, which ended in his being publicly horse- 
whipped by Lord Peterborough ; and London had 
another hearty laugh over his abject plight one evening 
at the theatre when, as he was thundering out the words 
" Caesar has no fear," a piece of the scenery fell from the 
flies upon the stage, which so terrified the poor little hero 
that he fell upon the boards and burst into a piteous flood 
of tears. People ridiculed the follies and vanities of the 
singers, but the worship of everything connected with 


opera still continued, in spite of the protests of old- 
fashioned critics, who denounced the degradation of 
English society in no measured terms. 

But we must hasten over the next few years, which 
saw the production of Handel's Taniedano (31st October 
1724), Rodelinda (13th February 1725), and Scipio (12th 
March 1726). All three operas were successful, and 
provided triumphs for Cuzzoni and Senesino. For 
Tamei'lano Handel's company was strengthened by the 
arrival in England of Borosini, of whom Mist's Weekly 
Jout'nal humorously observed : " It is commonly reported 
this gentleman was never cut out for a singer." He was, 
in fact, a tenor, and during his stay in England Handel 
wrote several important parts for him — contrary to the 
taste of the time, which favoured only soprani and 
contralti, with an occasional exception in favour of a bass. 
In Rodelinda, Cuzzoni's triumph was not only vocal, for 
the brown silk gown trimmed with silver in which she 
played the part of the heroine became the rage, and set 
the fashion for the season. Rodelinda was one of Handel's 
most popular operas. Byrom refers to it in some stanzas 
addressed to an opera-loving friend : — 

"Dear Peter, if thou canst descend 
From Rodelind to hear a friend, 
And if those ravished ears of thine 
Can quit the shrill celestial whine 
Of gentle eunuchs, and sustain 
Thy native English without pain, 
I would, if 'tain't too great a burden 
Thy ravished ears intrude a word in."^ 

But in spite of individual successes the affairs of the 
Academy were not prospering, and the directors deter- 

' Byrom, Letter to R. L., Esq. 


mined upon a magnificently audacious coup. They 
engaged Faustina Bordoni, Cuzzoni's only serious rival, 
and commissioned Handel to write an opera in which the 
two prima donnas were to appear together upon pre- 
cisely equal terms. The task was one of extreme difficulty, 
but Handel undertook it with alacrity. He was in 
excellent spirits just then. He had become a naturalised 
Englishman on the 13th of February 1726, and the King 
had immediately appointed him Composer to the Chapel 
Royal ^ and Composer to the Court, offices which could 
only be held by British subjects. Bononcini seemed at 
last to be utterly crushed ; and Handel felt powerful 
enough to face unmoved even the wrath of two jealous 
prima donnas. 

^ This appointment seems to have been purely honorary, and had nothing 
to do with the post of organist, which was held by Dr. Greene. 


IF music has power to charm the savage breast, it 
can also at times excite well-behaved and well- 
educated people to excesses of savagery that would 
disgrace a troglodyte. In the history of music there 
are many famous quarrels, but none ever surpassed in 
violence and acrimony the historic feud between Faustina 
and Cuzzoni and their respective partisans. Cuzzoni 
had the advantage of being first in the field, but though 
her magnificent singing had won her many supporters 
during the three years for which she had adorned the 
London stage, she had estranged many of them by her 
vanity and ill temper, and the engagement of Faustina 
was no doubt partly intended to bring Cuzzoni to a 
proper sense of her position. In Alessandro (5th May 
1726) the two great singers appeared side by side. 
Handel and his librettist had worked so cleverly together 
that neither artist had anything to complain of They 
sang song for song throughout the opera. Each of them 
sang a duet with Senesino, and they had one duet 
together which was so skilfully composed that neither 
of them could say which was singing the principal 

The applause was equally divided, and the audience 

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left the theatre discussing the all - important question 
whether Cuzzoni or Faustina was the greater artist. In 
a few days every tea-table in London was ringing with 
the same question. The Handel-Bononcini controversy 
was forgotten in the rivalry of the two prima donnas. 
If any one had imagined that the arrival of Faustina 
was going to resolve the discords of the musical world 
he was sadly mistaken. She came bringing not peace 
but a sword. London seemed to divide in a moment 
into two parties. There was no middle course. Every 
one had to be on one side or the other, Cuzzoni's chief 
backer was Lady Pembroke, and the leader of the 
Faustina faction was Dorothy, Lady Burlington, the 
young wife of Handel's patron. Lady Walpole, who 
must have been almost as good a diplomatist as her 
husband, was one of the few who contrived to keep on 
good terms with both sides. Faustina and Cuzzoni 
actually met under her roof, but neither would consent 
to sing in the presence of the other. At last, by a lucky 
inspiration. Lady Walpole contrived to smuggle Faustina 
into an adjoining room, under the pretext of show- 
ing her some china, and while her back was turned, 
Cuzzoni, who fancied that her rival had fled, was 
induced to sing. Later in the evening a similar piece of 
diplomacy extracted a song from Faustina. Meanwhile 
the newspapers had taken up the controversy, and 
lampoons fanned the flame of faction. Doggerel verses 
were passed from hand to hand, of which the following 
is a specimen : — 

" At Leicester Fields I give my vote 
For the fine-piped Cuzzoni ; 
At Burlington's I change my note, 
Faustina for my money. 


Attilio's music I despise, 

For none can please like Handel, 

But the disputes which hence arise, 
I wish and hope may end well."^ 

As a rule, the controversialists were not so amiable as 
this anonymous poet. Many of them, in the good old- 
fashioned seventeenth-century style, turned to the private 
lives of the singers, and aspersions upon the morality of 
the fair rivals were openly circulated, so gross in language 
and suggestion that respectable newspapers refused to 
publish them. It was not the fashion just then to be 
mealy-mouthed, and the freedom of thought and expres- 
sion displayed in " An Epistle from Signora F a to 

a Lady," to take but one instance, raises a mild curiosity 
as to what the poems can have been like which the 
virtuous British J ourfial considered too outspoken for its 
chaste pages. 

Handel's Admeto, which was produced on the 31st 
of January 1727, raised the excitement to fever heat. 
Both ladies had good parts in the new opera, and their 
respective admirers seized the opportunity not only of 
acclaiming their own favourite, but of trying to drown 
the applause of the opposite faction. The production 
of Bononcini's Astyanax on the 6th of May brought 
matters to a head. Both parties turned up in force, and 
Cuzzoni's first song was a signal for the tumult to 
begin. The poor woman's voice was drowned by hisses, 
groans and cat-calls. However, she had been warned 
of what was going to happen, and stood her ground 
manfully. When Faustina's turn came, the Cuzzonites 
had their revenge. The theatre was turned into a bear- 
garden, and the fine flower of English society behaved 

^ Historical MSS. Commissioti, Report xii. Appendix, pt. 9. 


like a parcel of drunken pot-boys at Greenwich Fair. 
The presence of the Princess Amelia was no check on 
the disorder, and the evening ended in riot and con- 
fusion. Lady Pembroke, the leader of the Cuzzonites, 
seems to have realised that she and her party had let 
their feelings carry them rather too far. There is an 
interesting letter extant from her to Mrs. Clayton, 
afterwards Lady Sundon, who was Mistress of the 
Robes to the Princess of Wales, entreating that amiable 
person to explain the state of affairs to the Princess, 
who presumably was vexed at her daughter's having 
been treated with so little respect: — 

" Dear Madam," the letter runs, — " I hope you will 
forgive the trouble I am going to give you, having 
always found you on every occasion most obliging. 
What I have to desire is, that if you find a convenient 
opportunity,^ I wish you would be so good as to tell 
Her Royal Highness that every one who wishes well to 
Cuzzoni is in the utmost concern for what happened 
last Tuesday at the Opera in the Princess Amelia's 
presence ; but to show their innocence of the disrespect 
which was shown to Her Highness, I beg you will do 
them the justice to say that the Cuzzoni had been 
publicly told, to complete her disgrace, she was to be 
hissed off the stage on Tuesday. She was in such 
concern at this that she had a great mind not to sing, 
but I, without knowing anything that the Princess 
Amelia would honour the Opera with her presence, 
positively ordered her not to quit the stage, but let 
them do what they would — though not heard, to sing 
on, and not to go off till it was proper ; and she owns 
now that if she had not had that order she would have 


quitted the stage when they cat-called her to such a 
degree in one song that she was not heard one note, 
which provoked the people that like her so much that 
they were not able to get the better of their resentment, 
but would not suffer the Faustina to speak afterwards. 
I hope Her Royal Highness would not disapprove of 
any one preventing the Cuzzoni's being hissed off the 
stage ; but I am in great concern they did not suffer 
anything to have happened to her, rather than to have 
failed in the high respect every one ought to pay to a 
Princess of Her Royal Highness's family; but as they 
were not the aggressors, I hope that may in some 
measure excuse them."^ 

After this outburst the subscribers seemed to have 
been somewhat ashamed of themselves, but the close 
of the season on the 6th of June was marked by even 
more scandalous disturbances. This time the Princess of 
Wales herself was in the theatre, but nothing could 
check the insanity of the audience. The climax of the 
entertainment on this occasion was a personal encounter 
between Faustina and Cuzzoni, who, roused to fury by 
the excesses of their partisans, threw decency to the 
winds and attacked each other tooth and nail. Arbuthnot 
seized the opportunity of making bitter fun of the singers 
and their followers in The Devil to pay at St. James's? 
After describing how " the two Singing Ladies pulled each 
other's Coifs " and scolded each other " like Billingsgates," 
he went on to make a severely practical suggestion. " In 

^ Memoirs of Viscountess Sitndon, vol. i. 

- Arbuthnot's latest biographer, Mr. G. A. Aitken, denies his authorship 
of this pamphlet, which, however, appears in the collected edition of his 


the meantime, I humbly propose that since these Ladies 
are not to be reconciled by any other gentle Means, 'tis 
best that they should fight it out at Figg's or Stoke's 
Amphitheatre ; that a subscription be opened for that 
purpose, and the best woman have the whole house." ^ 
The Homeric contest of the two singers naturally fired 
the doggerel poets to further efforts, but their epigrams 

^ Figg was a well-known prize-fighter, who taught boxing to the gilded 
youth of the day at an "academy" in the fields to the north of Oxford 
Street. He is immortalised by Hogarth in his Rakers Progress^ and by Pope 
in one of his satires : — 

" See, where the British youth, engaged no more 
At Figg's or White's with felons or a w e ! " 

Byrom, too, wrote an amusing set of verses on one of Figg's historic 
encounters, beginning — 

" Long was the great Figg by the prize-fighting swains 
Sole n^onarch acknowledged of Marybone Plains." 

As to the notion of a feminine prize-fight, there was nothing in that to 
shock or even to surprise an eighteenth-century public. Contests of this 
sort were, if not an everyday occurrence, at any rate by no means uncommon. 
Cesar de Saussure, who was in London in 1727, gives an elaborate and 
rather blood-curdling account of a prize-fight between two women, which 
evidently he thoroughly enjoyed, though he adds : " I consider that cock- 
fights are much more diverting." But at that time women took a far more 
prominent share in what are usually called "manly" exercises than is con- 
sidered correct even in these days of golf and hockey. " I am told," writes 
Saussure, "that in Kew Green women and girls, scantily clothed, run races, 
the smock being the prize, hence the appellation 'smock runs.'" (Saussure, 
England in the Reigns of George i and George 11. ) Even in the depths of 
the country the same sports were practised. The vivacious Mrs. Bradshaw 
writes from Cheshire to her friend Mrs. Howard : "My lady Mohun and I 
have our rural pleasures too. The Colonel gave a smock for the young 
wenches to run for. The pleasure of the day ended with a prison base ; all 
the swains from the two neighbouring towns performed feats of activity, and 
ran against one another with little more than a fig leaf for their clothing, 
and we, being in a state of innocence, were not ashamed to show our faces." 
{Stiffolk Correspondence, 1722.) 


are scarcely worth the trouble of transcribing. This is 
perhaps the best of them : — 

" Old poets sing that beasts did dance 
Whenever Orpheus played ; 
So to Faustina's charming voice 
Wise Pembroke's asses brayed." 

But for the moment the opera scandal was thrust into 
the background by events of wider importance. On 
nth June, King George I died suddenly at Osnabriick, 
struck to the heart, it was whispered, by a warning of 
approaching doom sent to him by his injured and 
neglected wife, Sophia Dorothea, whom he had kept in 
close confinement for years in the fortress of Ahlden, to 
expiate her supposed adultery with Count Konigsmark. 
Other authorities attribute his death to a surfeit of water- 
melons. The news reached England on the 14th, and 
on the following day George II was proclaimed King. 
The new King continued the pension already allotted to 
Handel by Anne and George I, and added a further 
pension of ;^200 in consideration of the composer's 
services as music master to the Princesses Amelia and 
Caroline. It is doubtful whether any salary was attached 
to the offices of Composer to the Court and to the Chapel 
Royal, which George I had conferred upon him when 
he became naturalised ; and the latter at any rate he 
seems to have shared with Maurice Greene, who used to 
blow the organ at St. Paul's for him in the old Burlington 
House days, but had now gone over to the Bononcini 
faction. It was probably in virtue of the former appoint- 
ment that Handel wrote the minuets which were performed 
at the court ball on the 30th of October 1727, and 
composed the magnificent series of anthems for the 


King's coronation on the nth of October which, as 
Rockstro justly says, have made that event a landmark in 
the history of music. Handel had a tussle with the Arch- 
bishops of Canterbury and York over the selection of 
words for these anthems. The worthy prelates had their 
own ideas upon the subject, and wanted to dictate to 
Handel what words he should set. But it needed more 
than a couple of archbishops to browbeat Handel into 
submission. " I have read my Bible very well," he cried, 
" and shall choose for myself." And so he did, and with 
excellent results, for his anthems strike just the right 
note of regal splendour and magnificence, and seem to 
sparkle with the glitter of the gleaming pageant Saussure, 
who gives one of the best extant descriptions of the 
coronation, was' evidently much impressed by them, 
though anything but an expert. " During the whole 
ceremony," he writes, " a band of the most skilful musicians, 
together with the finest voices in England, sung admirable 
symphonies, conducted by the celebrated Mr. Handel, who 
had composed the Litany." 

The King's Theatre opened again on nth November 
with a new opera by Handel, Riccardo Prima, Re 
d'Inghilterra, but the days of the Royal Academy were 
numbered. The scandals of the previous season had 
alienated the sympathies of all respectable people. Old 
subscribers fell off, and no new ones were forthcoming. 
It was hoped that Riccardo would draw the town by 
reason of its popular and patriotic subject, but the houses 
were poor. Mrs. Delany thought it " delightful," but she 
was compelled to add : " I doubt operas will not survive 
longer than this winter. They are now at their last 
gasp ; the subscription is expired, and nobody will renew 
it. The directors are always squabbling, and they have 


so many divisions among themselves that I wonder they 
have not broke up before." ^ 

More disastrous to the Academy even than its own 
internal dissensions was the rivalry of The Beggar's Opera, 
which had been produced early in 1727 at the Little 
Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and at once took London 
by storm. Every one was laughing at Gay's jests, coarse 
as they often were, and humming the charming old folk- 
songs so cleverly arranged by Dr. Pepusch. In vain 
Arbuthnot thundered against the degradation of popular 
taste, in vain Carey scarified the " Newgate Pastoral," 
as Swift called it, with ridicule. The beauty of the 
music and the freshness of the libretto won all hearts. 
Even Mrs. Delany, who deplored the empty houses in 
the Haymarket, and declared that " The English have 
no real taste for music, or they could not neglect an 
entertainment so perfect in its kind for a parcel of ballad 
singers," had to admit that The Beggar s Opera was very 
" comical and full of humour." 

Gay wrote to Swift with ill-disguised triumph : " The 
outlandish (as they call it) opera hath been so thin of 
late that some have called that The Beggars Opera ; and 
if the run continues, I fear, I shall have a remonstrance 
drawn up against me by the Royal Academy of Music." 
A month later he added : " The Beggar s Opera hath been 
acted now thirty-six times, and was as full the last night 
as the first ; and as yet there is not the least probability 
of a thin audience, though there is a discourse about the 
town that the doctors of the Royal Academy of Music 
design to solicit against it being played on the outlandish 
opera days." 

The falling fortunes of the Academy roused its enemies 

^ Delany, Correspondence, vol. i. 


to fresh efforts. Hostile pamphleteers launched anony- 
mous pasquinades against Handel and his music. The 
hand of Bononcini is plainly to be traced in Advice to 
the Composers and Performers of Vocal Mustek, which 
was published in Italian and English in 1727, with its 
spiteful references to composers who "overcharge and 
encumber the composition with too many symphonies." 

Handel alone was not to be cowed by the imminence 
of disaster. He stood to his guns manfully, and produced 
opera after opera in rapid succession. Riccardo was 
followed by Siroe (5th February 1728), and Siroe by 
Tolomeo (19th April 1728), but all in vain. Tolonieo was 
only performed seven times, and on the 1st of June the 
season came to an abrupt termination. The original 
;;^50,ooo was all spent, and there was no prospect of 
raising any more, so there was nothing to be done but 
to disband the company and close the doors of the 


THE collapse of the Royal Academy of Music was 
very far from destroying Handel's belief in the 
future of Italian opera in England. Probably he felt 
that the affairs of the Academy had been mismanaged, 
as indeed was almost inevitable when the broth was 
committed to the care of such an army of cooks, and he 
fancied that in proper hands opera might yet be a paying 
concern. At any rate he was ready to back his belief to 
the extent of his own savings, which were said to amount 
to ten thousand pounds. He joined forces with his old 
friend Heidegger, and took the King's Theatre. A 
partnership of five years was agreed upon, and the first 
season was to include fifty performances at a subscription 
of fifteen guineas a ticket. The enterprise was under the 
special patronage of Handel's old pupil, the Princess 
Royal.^ Heidegger seems to have started operations by 
hastening abroad in search of new singers, but his efforts 
were unsuccessful, and he soon resigned the task of 
choosing a company to his partner. Handel probably 
left England in the autumn of 1728, and went straight to 
Italy, postponing his visit to his aged mother at Halle 
until his return journey. He went the round of Italy, 

^ Shaftesbury Biographical Sketch. 


visiting in turn Rome, Milan, Venice, and other important 
musical centres, and hearing all the newest works of the 
newest composers. Handel's previous biographers are 
practically unanimous in stating that he made this 
journey in the company of his old friend Steffani, 
regardless of the fact that the latter had breathed his 
last at Frankfort on the 12th of February 1728.^ At 
Rome Handel renewed his friendship with the hospitable 
Cardinal Ottoboni, and doubtless once more took part in 
his famous Wednesday performances of chamber music. 

He also encountered another old friend, Cardinal 
Colonna, at whose house many years before, as the reader 
will remember, he played duets with a juvenile prodigy. 
Colonna seems to have endeavoured to bring about a 
meeting between Handel and the Chevalier de St. George, 
who was at that time resident in Rome, and was devoted 
to music, but Handel was wise enough not to prejudice 
his credit at the Hanoverian court by dallying with the 
Pretender. Handel's movements were followed with 
considerable interest by his English friends, and the 
musical world of London seems to have regarded his 
Italian tour as almost of national importance. Sir Lionel 
Pilkington wrote to a friend in April 1729: " Handel is 
doing his endeavour in Italy to procure singers, and I 
fancy his journey will be of more effect than Heidegger's ; 
but I'm told Senesino is playing an ungrateful part to 
his friends in England, by abusing 'em behind their backs, 
and saying he'll come no more among 'em."^ Abroad, 
too, all kinds of absurd rumours were circulated as to 
the methods employed by English managers to secure 

1 Woker, "Agostino Steffani." {Vereinsschrift der Gorres-Geselhchaft, 

^ Hist. MSS. Commission, 35. 


Italian singers. Mattheson, who was always glad to do 
Handel a bad turn, though in this case he did not 
mention him by name, gave a currency to a ridiculous 
story about a nun with a wonderful voice having been 
abducted from a Milanese convent by emissaries of a 
London impresario.^ Senesino doubtless did all that he 
could to enhance his own value, but Handel was tired of 
his conceit and impertinence, and made up his mind to 
try to get on without him. In his stead he engaged 
another artificial soprano, Bernacchi ; and his new prima 
donna was Signora Strada del P6, whom Burney 
describes as " a coarse singer with a fine voice," though it 
is evident, from the music that Handel wrote for her, that 
she was already mistress of a brilliant technique. Strange 
as it seems to us, who live in an age of tenor-worship, 
nobody in the eighteenth century cared a jot about tenors 
compared with the all-conquering castrati. However, 
Handel, who was nothing if not enterprising, determined 
to strike out upon a new line, and engaged the best tenor 
of the age, Annibale Fabri, together with his wife, who 
excelled in male parts. In March 1729 Handel was in 
Venice, whence he wrote to his brother-in-law, Dr. 
Michaelsen, promising to visit Halle on his way home. A 
little later, he received distressing news of his mother's 
health. He hastened to Halle to find her stricken with 
paralysis and totally blind, but still able to move about 
the house. He stayed with her as long as he could, even 
declining an invitation to meet Bach at Leipzig, so that 
she might not lose a day of his society, and finally bidding 
her farewell in the middle of June 1729. She lingered 
until the close of the following year, dying in her 
eightieth year in all peace and honour, but he never saw 

1 Mattheson, ]\Iusikalischer Patriot. 


her again. On his way home Handel passed through 
Hanover, and renewed memories of his youth by paying 
a visit to Hamburg, where he engaged the bass singer 
Riemschneider. Handel reached London on the ist 
July and his new singers arrived in September, but the 
season did not actually begin until the 2nd of December, 
when Handel's Lotario was produced. London had been 
deprived of opera for eighteen months, and excitement 
ran high with regard to the new " Academy," as it was 
called. Everybody was- talking about the new artists, 
and the privileged few who were admitted to the re- 
hearsals had a great deal to say about their merits and 
defects, Mrs, Delany, who was one of these, wrote an 
elaborate account of them to a musical friend : 
" Bernacchi has a vast compass, his voice mellow and 
clear, but not so sweet as Senesino, his manner better, 
his person not so good, for he is as big as a Spanish 
friar. Fabri has a tenor voice, sweet, clear, and firm, but 
not strong enough, I doubt, for the stage. He sings 
like a gentleman, without making faces, and his manner 
is particularly agreeable. He is the greatest master of 
music that ever sang upon the stage. The third is the 
bass, a very good distinct voice, without any harshness. 
La Strada is the first woman ; her voice is without 
exception fine, her manner perfection, but her person 
very bad, and she makes frightful mouths.^ La Merighi 
is the next to her; her voice is not extraordinarily good 
or bad. She is tall, and has a very graceful person with 
a tolerable face. She seems to be a woman about forty ; 
she sings easily and agreeably. The last is Bertolli ; she 
has neither voice, ear, or manner to recommend her ; but 

^ Burney says of her : " She had so little of a Venus in her appearance, 
that she was usually called "The Pig." 

1 1 2 HANDEL 

she is a perfect beauty, quite a Cleopatra, that sort of 
complexion with regular features, fine teeth, and when 
she sings has a smile about her mouth, which is 
extremely pretty, and I believe has practised to sing 
before a glass, for she has never any distortion in her 
face." Lotario was not a success. Even so staunch a 
Handelian as Mrs. Delany did not altogether approve of 
it. " I never was so little pleased with one of Mr. 
Handel's operas in my life," she wrote. But she would 
not allow other people to criticise it. " The opera is too 
good for the vile taste of the town," she continued. " It 
is disliked because it is too much studied, and they love 
nothing but minuets and ballads; in short, the Beggars 
Opera and HurlotJirumbo are only worthy of applause." 
The Beggars Opet'a was by this time a very old story, 
and none of its numerous sequels and imitations had won 
a tithe of its success. Gay, or rather his patroness, the 
Duchess of Queensberry, had got into trouble over Polly ^ 
a continuation of The Beggar's Opera, the production of 
which had been forbidden by the Lord Chamberlain. 
Like our muzzled dramatists of to-day, Gay thought to 
shame the censor by publishing his play, and the Duchess 
was so strenuous a canvasser, urging everybody she met 
to subscribe for a copy, even under the very nose of the 
King, that at last he forbade her to appear at Court. 
Hurlothrumbo was a spectacular piece by a dramatist 
named Samuel Johnson, which was produced in April 
1729, and for many months drew all London to Lincoln's 
Inn Fields. Byrom, the author of the famous Handel- 
Bononcini epigram, gives an amusing account of the first 
night in a letter to his wife : " As for Mr. Johnson, he is 
at present one of the chief topics of talk in London. 
Dick's Coffee- House resounds Hurlothrumbo from one 


end to the other. He had a full house and much good 
company on Saturday night, the first time of acting ; and 
report says all the boxes are taken for next Monday, and 
the quality, they say, expect an epilogue next time (there 

being none last) from Mr. B . It is impossible to 

describe this play and the oddities, out-of-the-waynesses, 
flights, madness, nonsense, comicalities, etc., but I hope 
Johnson will make his fortune by it for the present. We 
had seven or eight Garters, they say, in the pit; I saw 
Lord Oxford and one or two more there, but was so 
intent upon the farce that I did not observe many quality 
that were there. We agreed to laugh and clap beforehand, 
and kept our word from beginning to end. The night 
after, Johnson came to Dick's, and they all got about him 
like so many bees. They say the Prince has been told 
of Hui'Iothruinbo, and will come and see it. ... I shall 
get Johnson to vary some passages in it, if I can, that 
from anybody but himself would make it an entertainment 
not quite so proper for the ladies, and I would have our 
ladies here see it because they know the man. For my 
part, who think all stage entertainments stuff and 
nonsense, I consider this as a joke upon 'em all." 
However, as Johnson was a friend and a fellow- 
Lancastrian, Byrom consented to fulfil expectation, and 
wrote an epilogue for the piece, in which occur the 
lines : — 

" Handel himself shall yield to Hurlothrumbo, 
And Bononcini too shall cry : Succumbo." 

Partenope, produced on the 24th of February 1730, was 

more successful than Lotario^ but on the whole the season, 

which closed in June, was anything but brilliant, and 

Handel had to take serious thought for the future. 


114 HANDEL | 

The first thing to do was to reorganise his company. 
Bernacchi, whose singing, according to Mrs. Delany, did 
not suit English ears, was dismissed, and, in deference to 
popular taste, Senesino was engaged in his place.^ Various 
other engagements were made, and the season opened 
on the 3rd of November with a revival of Scipio, in which 
Senesino took his old part of the hero. A novelty was 
forthcoming on the 2nd of February 1731, in the shape of 
Poro^ with Senesino as the Indian king, Fabri as Alexander 
the Great, and Strada as Cleofide. Fortune now smiled 
upon Handel and his theatre, and the following season — 
during which Ezio (15th January 1732) and Sosarme (19th ■ 
February 1732) were produced — was no less successful. 
But meanwhile Handel was winning triumphs in a very 
different field. It has often excited the surprise of 
historians that, after inaugurating what was practically 
a new form of art in Esther and Acis and Galatea, Handel 
returned complacently to opera, and apparently forgot all 
about his experiments in oratorio. The fact is, that 
Handel himself had no suspicion of the importance of 
these two works in the history of his artistic development. 
Esther and Acis were doubtless written for some special 
occasion, and Handel being an eminently practical man 

^ The English infatuation for Senesino seems to have surprised foreigners. ^ 
Writing from Milan in 1734 Lord Harcourt says : " The English have quite 
lost their reputation of being judges in musick ever since the bad reception 
Bernacchi met with in England ; and although his voice may be perhaps a 
little worn out, nevertheless, to show how much he is esteemed in this 
country for his good taste, skill, and judgment in musick, he is called the 
Father of musick — which title he certainly well deserves, since 'tis he that has 
given the fine taste of musick (as the Itahans express themselves) to the 
famous Farinelli, Carestini, etc. And on the other hand, to show the 
difference of the Italian and English taste, Senesino, who is so much 
admired in England, would not be able to get his bread in this country." 
Harcozirt Papers, vol. iii. p. 27. 


designed them in view of the forces that he had at his 
disposal. The choir at Canons was first-rate, and for that 
reason he assigned unusual importance to the choral parts 
of both works. But nothing would have surprised him 
more than to hear Esther or Acis described as an oratorio. 
Both works were unquestionably intended for dramatic 
performance. It was an accident that gave them the 
special character which fitted them equally well for 
stage or concert perfoxmance. Handel doubtless looked 
upon them merely z.?, pieces d' occasion, as a kind of holiday 
task in the midst of the real business of his life, and he 
must have been pleasantly surprised when Bernard Gates, 
the master of the children of the Chapel Royal, asked 
for leave to give a private performance of Esther at his 
own house. Handel, no doubt, was flattered, and in due 
course the performance took place. The fact that it was 
given on Handel's birthday, 23rd February 1732, indicates 
the friendly and intimate character of the entertainment. 
The choir boys sang their parts capitally, the company 
present was charmed, and it was speedily arranged that 
the performance should be repeated at the Crown and 
Anchor Tavern in the Strand under the segis of the 
Academy of Ancient Music, an institution in which 
Handel took a special interest. Esther was given twice 
at the Crown and Anchor before crowded audiences, and 
its fame spread far and wide. Princess Anne heard of it 
and, with her usual enthusiasm for the music of her 
beloved master, expressed a very earnest desire to see it. 
She suggested a performance at the opera-house, but the 
Bishop of London, Dr. Gibson, stepped in and put his 
veto upon the scheme of acting a Biblical drama in a theatre. 
He had no objection, however, to a performance without 
dramatic action, a decision which was pregnant with fate 


for Handel's future. Meanwhile, the chatter about Esther 
had brought another Richmond into the field, and an 
announcement duly appeared to the effect that a perform- 
ance of Esther, " as it was composed for the Most Noble 
James, Duke of Chandos," would be given at the Great 
Room in Villiers Street, York Buildings, on the 20th of 
April 1732. Nebulous as the copyright laws are 
nowadays, they seem to have been even more indefinite 
in the eighteenth century, or Handel of all men in the 
world never have sat down under such an aggressive piece 
of piracy as this. However, he soon replied with a counter- 
announcement that " by his Majesty's Command," Esther 
would be given at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket 
on the 2nd of May " by a great number of Voices and 
Instruments." Very significant as a document in the 
history of oratorio is the note at the end of the advertise- 
ment : ^^ N.B. — There will be no acting on the Stage, but 
the house will be fitted up in a decent manner for the 
audience. The Musick {i.e. the performers) to be dis- 
posed after the manner of the Coronation Service." 
Esther was much revised and enlarged for this perform- 
ance, and the fact that the text-book bore the legend, 
" The additional words by Mr. Humphreys," is a sufficient 
proof that that egregious poetaster was not the author of 
the original poem. Esther, we are told by Colman, was 
a great success. The entire royal family was present at 
the first performance, and the crowd was so great that 
many persons, who had bought tickets, were unable to 
get into the theatre, and their money was returned to 
them. The oratorio was given six times in all, and always 
before packed houses. Handel always suffered much at 
the hands of pirates, and at this period they seem to have 
been exceptionally active. Hardly was the success of 


Esther established in the teeth of unprincipled competition, 
when the same scurvy trick was played in connection 
with Acis and Galatea. This time the offender was 
Thomas Arne, the father of the well-known composer, 
who was running a season of English opera at the Little 
Theatre in the Haymarket. Handel had already per- 
mitted, or at any rate not objected to, a single performance 
of Acis, given for the benefit of a singer named Rochetti 
at Rich's theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, but it was too 
much to see his property filched from under his very nose 
and then exhibited at his own door. Arne's impudent 
piracy compelled him to assert his rights, and he announced 
a performance oi Acis on the loth of June 1732, which was 
designed to compensate his opera subscribers for the fact 
that only forty-nine performances, instead of the promised 
fifty, had been given during the preceding season.^ In view 
of this revival he remodelled his score in a drastic manner, 
borrowing several numbers from his Neapolitan serenata, 
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, and adding some new songs. As 
regards the performance, he followed the precedent already 
laid down in Esther'. "There will be no action on the 
Stage," said the advertisement, " but the Scene will repre- 
sent in a picturesque manner a rural prospect with rocks, 
groves, fountains and grottoes, among which will be dis- 
posed a Chorus of Nymphs and Shepherds, the habits and 
every other decoration suited to the subject." Strada and 
Senesino sang the principal parts, and the work was 
received with so much favour that it was performed four 
times. During the next few years it was often repeated, 
in many cases with alterations both in words and music, 
until about the year 1740 it assumed the final shape with 
English words in which it has won world-wide renown. 
^ Shaftesbury Biographical Sketch. 


WHEN the autumn season of 1732 began, Handel's 
position seemed unassailable. He ruled the 
musical destinies of London with a rod of iron. He had 
proved himself incomparable in opera and oratorio alike. 
His enemies lay crushed beneath his feet. So little did 
he fear the competition of his erstwhile rival Bononcini, 
that he had contemptuously allowed him the use of the 
Opera-house for the performance of a serenata on the 
24th of June. But destiny had her revenge in store. 
Handel was an autocrat, and though his sway was grate- 
ful to those who could appreciate good music, his master- 
ful bearing made him enemies among small and great. 
In the old days of the Royal Academy of Music he 
occupied a more or less subordinate position. He had 
a board of directors over him, to whom he was bound to 
submit. But during his own management he reigned 
supreme. He brooked no rival near his throne. The 
subscribers had to be content with what he gave them. 
He permitted no remonstrance or complaint. He chose 
the singers and the operas, and those who cavilled at the 
entertainment he provided might go elsewhere. The re- 
sult was not, on the whole, surprising. Handel had many 
staunch supporters, but among his subscribers a spirit of 


revolt was astir. The aristocracy of England was not 
accustomed to be treated in this manner. Who was this 
upstart German who dared to dictate to them ? They 
paid the piper, and they had the right to call for the tune. 
Handel no doubt was not conciliatory, indeed, his enemies 
called him overbearing. Neither side would yield an inch, 
and it was generally felt that a crisis was at hand. Mean- 
while, the opera season opened as usual in November, 
with Senesino and Strada still at the head of affairs, and 
on the 23rd of January 1733 a new opera, Orlando — one 
of Handel's finest works — was produced. Orlando 
was too good for the subscribers, but it triumphed in 
the teeth of opposition, and was given sixteen times 
during the season. But Handel had another string to 
his bow. He had learned that oratorio was at least as 
marketable an asset as opera, and for the future he pro- 
posed to run the two in double harness. The beginning 
of Lent was therefore the signal for the production of a 
new oratorio, Deborah, which was given for the first time 
on the 17th of March for Handel's benefit, outside the 
ordinary series of opera subscription performances. On 
this occasion several new features were introduced. The 
house was " fitted up and illuminated in a new and par- 
ticular manner," which was well enough, but what was 
less well was that the prices of admission were doubled, 
the tickets for the pit and boxes being a guinea, and for 
the gallery half a guinea. Handel seems to have made 
up his mind that oratorio, which just then was the more 
popular form of entertainment, should pay for the de- 
ficiencies of opera. The excuse given for the raised 
prices was the "extraordinary expense" of the produc- 
tion, ^ but there is no doubt that this new piece of imposi- 

^ Shaftesbtiry Biographical Sketch. 


tion, as it was generally considered, was a severe trial 
even to Handel's admirers, and his enemies of course 
made capital out of it. The fact that the performance was 
given upon one of the " opera days " further incensed the 
subscribers, and the high prices militated against the 
success of DeboraJi, in spite of the patronage of the King, 
who came with all the royal family to the performance on 
the 31st of March. The situation became more strained 
than ever. The air was full of rumours, and the news- 
papers of satirical squibs. The well-known and often 
reprinted letter which appeared in TJie Cj'aftsnian of the 
7th of April 1733, though of course primarily a lampoon 
directed against Walpole and his unpopular Excise Bill, 
represents pretty accurately the attitude of Handel's 
enemies. In several points the Walpole cap does not fit 
Handel at all, as in the attack on Walpole's brother, Sir 
Horatio, but the squib would have lost its point if it had 
not had at least a general application to the Handel 
squabbles, so that it is still worth reprinting as a specimen 
of the kind of abuse to which Handel had to submit. 

Sir, — I am always rejoiced, when I see a spirit of 
Liberty exert itself among any sect or denomination of 
my countrymen. I please myself with the hopes that it 
will grow more diffusive, some time or other become 
fashionable, and at last useful to the publick. As I know 
your zeal for Liberty, I thought I could not address better 
than to you the following exact account of the noble stand 
lately made by the polite part of the world in defence of 
their Liberties and Properties against the open attacks and 

bold attempts of Mr. H 1 upon both, I shall singly 

relate the fact and leave you, who are better able than I 
am, to make what inferences or applications may be proper. 


" The rapid rise and progress of Mr, H I's power and 

fortune are too well known for me now to relate. Let it 
suffice to say that he was grown so insolent upon the 
sudden and undeserved increase of both, that he thought 
nothing ought to oppose his imperious and extravagant 
will. He had for some time govern'd the Operas and 
modell'd the Orchestre without the least control. No 
Voices, no Instruments, were admitted, but such as 
flatter'd his ears, though they shock'd those of the 
audience. Wretched Scrapers were put above the best 
Hands in the Orchestre. No Musick but his own was to 
be allowed, though everybody was weary of it, and he 
had the impudence to assert that there was no Composer 
in England but himself. 

" Even Kings and Queens were to be content with what- 
ever low characters he was pleased to assign them, as it 
was evident in the case of Seignior Montagnana, who, 
though a King, is always obliged to act (except an angry, 
rumbling song or two) the most insignificant part of the 
whole Drama. This excess and abuse of power soon 
disgusted the town ; his Government grew odious, and 
his Opera grew empty. However, this degree of unpopu- 
larity and general hatred, instead of troubling him, only 
made him more furious and desperate. He resolved to 
make one last effort to establish his power and fortune by 
force, since he found it now impossible to hope for it from 
the goodwill of mankind. In order to this, he formed a 
Plan, without consulting any of his Friends (if he has any), 
and declared that at a proper season he would com- 
municate it to the publick, assuring us at the same time 
that it would be very much for the advantage of the 
publick in general and of his Operas in particular. Some 
people suspect that he had settled it previously with 


Signora Strada del P6, who is much in his favour ; but all 
that I can advance with certainty is that he had concerted 
it with a brother of his own, in whom he places a most 
undeserved confidence. In this brother of his, heat and 
dulness are miraculously united. The former prompts 
him to do anything new and violent, while the latter 
hinders him from seeing any of the inconvenience of it. 

As Mr. H I's brother, he thought it was necessary he 

should be a Musician too, but all he could arrive at after 
a very laborious application for many years was a 
moderate performance upon the Jew's Trump. He had 
for some time play'd a Parte Biiffa abroad, and had 
entangled his brother in several troublesome and danger- 
ous engagements in the commissions he had given him to 
contract with foreign performers, and from which (by the 

way) Mr. H -1 did not disengage himself with much 

honour. Notwithstanding all these and many more 

objections, Mr. H 1, by and with the advice of his 

brother, at last produces his project, resolves to cram it 
down the throats of the Town, prostitutes great and 
awful names as the patrons of it, and even does not 
scruple to insinuate that they are to be the sharers of the 
profit. His scheme set forth in substance that the late 
decay of Operas was owing to their cheapness and to the 
great frauds committed by the Doorkeepers ; that the 
annual Subscribers were a parcel of Rogues, and made an 
ill use of their tickets, by often running two into the 
Gallery ; that to obviate these abuses he had contrived a 
thing that was better than an Opera call'd an Oratorio, to 
which none should be admitted but by Permits or Tickets 
of one Guinea each, which should be distributed out of 
Warehouses of his own and by Offices of his own naming, 
which officers would not so reasonably be supposed to 


cheat in the collection of guineas as the Doorkeepers in 
the collection of half-guineas ; and lastly, that as the very 
being of Operas depended upon him singly, it was just 
that the profit arising from hence should be for his own 
benefit. He added indeed one condition, to varnish the 
whole a little, which was that if any person should think 
himself aggrieved, and that the Oratorio was not worth 
the price of the Permit, he should be at liberty to appeal 
to three Judges of Musick, who should be obliged within 
the space of seven years at farthest finally to determine 
the same, provided always that the said Judges should 
be of his nomination, and known to like no other Musick 
but his. 

" The absurdity, extravagancy, and opposition of this 
scheme disgusted the whole town. Many of the most 
constant attenders of the Operas resolved absolutely to 
renounce them, rather than go to them under such exhorta- 
tion and vexation. They exclaim'd against the insolent 
and rapacious Projector of this Plan. The King's old and 
sworn servants of the two Theatres of Drury Lane and 
Covent Garden reap'd the benefit of this general discontent, 
and were resorted to in crowds, by way of opposition to 
the Oratorio. Even the fairest breasts were fired with 
indignation against this new imposition. Assemblies, 
Cards, Tea, Coffee, and all other female batteries were 
vigorously employ'd to defeat the Project and destroy 
the Projector. These joint endeavours of all ranks and 
sexes succeeded so well that the Projector had the morti- 
fication to see but a very thin audience in his Oratorio ; 
and of about two hundred and sixty odd, that it consisted 
of, it was notorious that not ten paid for their Permits, 
but on the contrary had them given them, and money into 
the bargain for coming to keep him in countenance. 


" This accident, they say, has thrown him into a deep 
Melancholy, interrupted sometimes by raving fits, in 
which he fancies he sees ten thousand Opera Devils 
coming to tear him in pieces ; then he breaks out into 
frantick, incoherent speeches, muttering Sturdy beggars^ 
assassination, etc. In these delirious moments, he discovers 
a particular aversion to the City. He calls them all a 
parcel of Rogues, and asserts that the honestest Trader 
among them deserves to be hang'd. It is much question'd 
whether he will recover ; at least, if he does, it is not 
doubted but he will seek for a retreat in his own Country 
from the general resentment of the Town. — I am, Sir, 
your very humble Servant, 

" F LO R LI 

" P.S. — Having seen a little Epigram, lately handed 
about Town, which seems to allude to the same subject, 
I believe it will not be unwelcome to your readers : — 

' Quoth W e to H 1, shall we two agree 

And excise the whole Nation ? 

H. — Si, caro, si. 

Of what use are Sheep, if the Shepherd can't shear them? 
At the Haymarket I, you at Westminster. 

W. — Hear him ! 

Call'd to order, their Seconds appear in their place 
One fam'd for his Morals,^ and one for his Face." 
In half they succeeded, in half they were crost : 
The Excise was obtain'd, but poor Deborah lost.'" 

Plainly there was a strong personal feeling against 

Handel and his methods, but, after all, hard words break 

no bones, and the controversy might have ended in 

smoke, had not a redoubtable antagonist entered the field 

^ Lord Hervey. ^ Heidegger. 


against the composer, no less a personage than the heir 
to the throne, Frederick, Prince of Wales. 

Frederick was at that time the most popular man in 
England. He had landed in England four years before 
at a propitious moment. The hopes founded upon the 
new reign had already declined. England was cured of 
any illusions she may have entertained with regard to 
George 11. Vain and spiteful, mean and avaricious, the 
new King soon estranged the sympathies of court and 
society. Frederick, on the other hand, had many points 
in his favour. His manners were charming, and he spoke 
English more than tolerably. He had inherited much of 
his mother's intelligence, he had a taste for art and litera- 
ture, and had himself been known to trifle not unsuccess- 
fully with the muse. He was generous and extravagant, 
although in a continual state of impecuniosity. He liked 
walking about the streets unguarded, and had a bow and 
a smile for every one he met. To the common people his 
taste for sport particularly endeared him. He loved horse 
racing and was an enthusiastic cricketer, indeed it is said 
that the abscess which ultimately caused his death was 
occasioned by a blow from a cricket-ball.^ But his surest 
passport to the nation's favour was his known hostility to 
the King and VValpole. His father unquestionably treated 
him badly. He kept him short of money, and would not 
allow him a separate establishment. In revenge Frederick 
threw himself into the arms of the Opposition, and played 
no insignificant part in the defeat of Walpole over the 
Excise Bill. Within the walls of St. James's Palace the 
flame of family feud burnt still hotter. Frederick was 
always at daggers-drawn with his two elder sisters, Anne 
and Amelia. Anne was the musician of the family, and 

1 A. E. Knight, The Complete Cricketer. 


when Handel, whose pupil she had been, took the King's 
Theatre she persuaded the King and Queen to subscribe 
for a box, and to patronise the performances very often. 
This gave the Prince a good opportunity of annoying his 
sister, and of affronting the King and Queen. He was 
something of a musician himself, and took violin lessons 
from Dubourg. Probably he knew as well as any one that 
Handel was a far better composer than any of his rivals, but 
to suit his own purposes he pretended to despise Handel's 
music, and he carried his perversity so far as to combine 
with several of the influential subscribers in founding a 
rival enterprise at Lincoln's Inn Fields with Porpora as lead- 
ing composer.^ The scheme seems to have been hatched 
some time in the spring of 1733, and on the 15th of June 
a meeting was summoned at Hickford's Great Room 
in Panton Street to discuss the plan of the campaign. 
Handel's enemies were accomplished strategists. They 
contrived to seduce the greater part of his company from 
their allegiance. Senesino, whose conceit and rapacity 
had always made him a difficult subject to manage, 
revolted first, and his defection was followed by that of 
Montagnana and the others, Heidegger seems also to 
have severed his connection with Handel about this time. 
Only Strada remained faithful to her old impresario. 
For the moment, however, Handel had to turn his atten- 
tion from the squabbles of pampered opera singers and 
the intrigues of offended aristocrats, and hastened to 
Oxford to conduct a series of performances of his oratorios. 
Ever since the Revolution Oxford had been a hotbed of 
Jacobitism, and the new Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Holmes, a 
staunch Hanoverian, had made up his mind to do something 
to bring about a better understanding between the Court 
^ Hervey, Memoirs, i. 320. 


and the University. He determined to make a beginning 
by inviting Handel, who was known to be a persona grata 
to the King and Queen, to give the Oxford Jacobites a taste 
of his music during the annual festivities of Commemora- 
tion, or, as it was then called, the Public Act, and to receive 
the degree of Doctor of Music. The second part of the 
scheme went agley, for when Handel found that the degree 
would cost him ;^ioo, he lost his temper and declared he 
was not going to throw his money away to oblige a parcel 
of blockheads ; ^ but the oratorios came off in due course, 
and the occasion was rendered historical by the production 
oi Athaliah on July 10. Handel had a popular success at 
Oxford, but the Jacobite dons looked askance at the 
Whig composer. A passage in the diary of Thomas 
Hearne, the antiquary, who was a Fellow of Edmund 
Hall, throws an amusing sidelight upon the opinion of 
Handel and his music held by the dry-as-dust Oxford 
pundits. Hearne, whose devotion to " monkish manu- 
scripts " was sung by Pope,^ cared little about music and 
concerts, which, according to him, only " exhausted gentle- 
men's pockets and were incentives to lewdness." He had 
to admit Handel's " great skill," but he was indignant at 
having to give five shillings for his ticket, and a shilling 
for a book of words " not worth a penny," and in his heart 
of hearts he resented the action of the Vice-Chancellor in 
forbidding a company of strolling players to come into 
Oxford, while " Handel and his lousy crew, a great number 

^ The Abbe Prevost gave his readers a different explanation of the fact 
that Handel did not take his degree, and one slightly less in keeping with 
Handel's character : " M. Handel s'est rendu a Oxford, mais on a ete surpris 
de lui voir refuser les marques de distinction qu'on lui destinait. II n'y avait 
que cette modestie qui put etre egale a ses talents." Le Pour et le Centre, 
i. 123. 

- Pope, liforal Essays, iv. 


of foreign fiddlers," were admitted to the sacred precincts 
of the Sheldonian Theatre.^ 

The undergraduates, too, for once agreed with the 
dons in complaining of Handel's excessive charges. In a 
squib of the period, Mr. Thoughtless, a Merton "blood," 
bewailing his impecuniosity, cries : " In the next place, 
there's the furniture of my room procured me some 
tickets to hear that bewitching music, that cursed 
Handel, with his confounded Oratio's {sic); I wish him 
and his company had been yelling in the infernal shades 
below." 2 

Handel returned to London to find the operatic 
quarrel raging more fiercely than ever. Luckily, though 
peers and proctors joined forces against him, he had 
plenty of trusty friends left, who rallied manfully to his 
standard. Arbuthnot riddled the opposition with light 
artillery in Harmony in an Uproar, a squib published under 
the pseudonym of " Hurlothrumbo Johnson."^ Handel 
is on his trial, and the judge proceeds to detail the various 
charges which he has to answer : — 

" Imprimis, you are charg'd with having bewitch'd us 
for the space of twenty Years past, nor do we know where 
your Inchantments will end, if a timely stop is not put to 
them, they threatening us with an entire Destruction of 
Liberty and an absolute Tyranny in your Person over the 
whole Territories of the Haymarket. 

" Secondly, you have most insolently dar'd to give us 
good Musick and sound Harmony when we wanted and 

•^ Hearne, Reliquia Hearniance, 

- The Oxfo7-d Act : A Neiv Ballad-Opera, London, 1733. 

^ Arbuthnot's latest biographer, Mr. G. A. Aitken, denies his authorship 
of this pamphlet, in spite of its inclusion in the collected edition of his works 
published in I75i- 

?Ia d'AeUer i^uoicr ?late^ f:/t€iC- oan2d oMrPc> 

6f/fa^6 Ca/Q(^a. 7-€/tW(^ crr>tCy) my <^-(i,a J //('<? f(y race 
d/id J'a4/<^ /tm^ 'TMj.i-L. //iff 'J^atyno/noi^/kaU 



desir'd bad, to the great Encouragement of your Operas 
and the ruin of our good Allies and Confederates the 
Professors of bad Musick. 

" Thirdly, you have most feloniously and arrogantly 
assum'd to yourself an uncontroul'd Property of pleasing 
us, whether we would or no, and have often been so bold 
as to charm us, when we were positively resolv'd to be out 
of Humour." 

Then come more special charges, in which we can 
discern a sly hit at the " Academics " of the day, the 
learned professors who maintained that nobody could 
compose unless he had taken a degree at Oxford or 

" First then, Sir, have you taken your Degree ? Boh ! 
Ha, ha, ha ! Are you a Doctor, Sir? A fine Composer 
indeed and not a Graduate ! . . . Why, Doctor Pushpin 
(Pepusch) and Doctor Blue (Greene) laugh at you and 
scorn to keep you company, ... I understand you have 
never read Euclid, are a declar'd Foe to all the proper 
Modes and Forms and Tones of Musick, and scorn to be 
subservient to or ty'd up by Rules or have your Genius 
cramp'd. Thou Goth and Vandal to just Sounds ! We 
may as well place Nightingales and Canary birds behind 
the Scenes, and take the wild Operas of Nature from them 
as allow you to be a Composer." 

But the time for words was over. The combatants 
were already on the terrain^ and the duel was to be fought 
a outrance. Handel snatched a brief holiday after his 
visit to Oxford, and, accompanied by his friend Schmidt, 
took a hasty trip to the Continent in search of new singers. 
In Italy he heard Farinelli, then a young man and com- 
paratively unknown, and Carestini. Unfortunately for 
his pocket he preferred the latter, whom he at once 


engaged and brought back with him to England.^ He 
opened his season on the 30th of October, the King's 
birthday, and was honoured by the presence of the court, 
even the Prince of Wales being compelled by etiquette to 
put in an appearance. A few weeks later his new castrato, 
Carestini, made his appearance. 

Carestini was undoubtedly a very great singer, but he 
had the misfortune in his earlier days to be eclipsed by 
Senesino, and in his later by Farinelli. His voice, originally 
a soprano, had sunk by this time to " the fullest, finest, 
and deepest counter-tenor that has perhaps ever been 
heard." ^ Hasse said of him that whoever had not heard 
Carestini was unacquainted with the most perfect style of 
singing. He was a great success in London, the more so 
as Senesino's voice was distinctly not what it had been. 
Arbuthnot, indeed, rudely speaks of the latter as " almost 
past his Business." ^ 

The rival company — the Opera of the Nobility, as it 
pompously called itself — opened its season in the Lincoln's 
Inn Fields Theatre on the 29th of December 1733 with 
Porpora's Ariadne. Handel replied with an Ariadne of 
his own, produced on the 26th of January 1734, and so the 
struggle went on. Carestini was Handel's trump card, 
but his other singers were nothing very much to boast of 
Lady Bristol tells us all about them in a letter to her 
husband : " I am just come home from a dull empty 
opera {Caio Fabrizio^ a pasticcio), tho' the second time. 
The first was full to hear the new man (Carestini), who I 
can find out to be an extream good singer. The rest are 
all scrubbs, except old Durastanti, that sings as well as 
ever she did." ^ Party feeling ran high between the two 

^ Hawkins, History, v. 318. - Burney, History, iv. 369. 

^ Harmony iti an Uproar, 39. * Letter Book of /ohn Hervey, iii. 


opera-houses and their supporters. Everybody who had 
a grudge against the court went to Lincoln's Inn Fields 
in order to curry favour with the Prince. The King and 
Queen cared little about music, but they were very much 
annoyed at Frederick's behaviour, which they regarded as 
a personal slight. They made a point of patronising 
Handel as much as possible, and, as Lord Hervey says, 
"sat freezing constantly at the empty Haymarket Opera." 
Unfortunately for Handel, the King was at that time 
extremely unpopular, and the presence of the court at his 
theatre by no means implied full houses. 

" The affair," Hervey continues, " grew as serious as 
that of the Greens and the Blues under Justinian at 
Constantinople. An anti-Handelian was looked upon as an 
anti-courtier, and voting against the court in Parliament was 
hardly a less remissible or more venial sin than speaking 
against Handel or going to the Lincoln's Inn Fields Opera. 
The Princess Royal said she expected in a little while to 
see half the House of Lords playing in the orchestra at 
the latter house in their robes and coronets ; and the 
King — though he declared he took no other part in this 
affair than subscribing ^1000 a year to Handel — often 
added at the same time that ' he did not think setting 
oneself at the head of a faction of fiddlers a very honourable 
occupation for people of quality, or the ruin of one poor 
fellow so generous or so good-natured a scheme as to do 
much honour to the undertakers, whether they succeeded 
or not ; but the better they succeeded in it, the more he 
thought they would have reason to be ashamed of it' " ^ 

Meanwhile Handel's old enemy, Bononcini, had dis- 
appeared from the scene, accused of having palmed 
off a madrigal of Lotti's upon the Academy of Ancient 
^ Hervey, Metnoirs, i. 320. 

1 3 2 HANDEL 

Music as a work of his own. The matter was much dis- 
cussed at the time, and Bononcini had every opportunity 
given him of justifying his action. He preferred, however, 
to remain silent, so the case was given against him, and 
he left England for ever, disappointed and disgraced. 

The great social excitement of the year was the 
marriage of the Princess Royal to William, Prince of 
Orange. The match could hardly be called a brilliant 
one, since the Prince was not of royal rank, was as 
poor as a church mouse, and deformed into the bargain. 
Princess Anne did not pretend to care about him, and 
the King and Queen snubbed him unmercifully. When 
he arrived at St. James's Palace, Anne was surrounded 
by a bevy of her favourite opera singers, and refused to 
leave the harpsichord in order to greet her fiance. How- 
ever, the marriage was popular throughout the country, 
partly as a guarantee for the Protestant succession, and 
partly because of the magic that still hung round the name 
of Orange. The wedding took place on the 14th of March. 
Handel wrote an anthem for the occasion, or rather 
compiled one, for the work in question, " This is the day," 
was made up entirely of selections from his earlier works 
The Princess's marriage gave birth to yet another work, 
the serenata Parnasso in Festa, which was performed the 
day before the wedding, at the Haymarket Theatre, before 
the King and all the Royal Family. This also was largely 
a compilation, being taken principally from Athaliah 
which having only been given at Oxford was not yet 
familiar to London audiences. 

In Anne, Handel lost a friend whose enthusiasm was 
only equalled by her indiscretion. She was devoted to 
her old preceptor and his music, yet by stirring up the 
Prince of Wales against him she indirectly inflicted upon 


him the severest injury that he ever had to endure. Yet 
Handel owed much to her. The frequent grants " to the 
undertakers of the Opera to discharge their debts " which 
appear in the Treasury Papers during Handel's tenancy 
of the King's Theatre, may be traced to her amiable 
influence. She trained her sisters, too, to be thorough- 
going Handelians — though Amelia was much more at 
home on horseback than in her box at the opera, and the 
gentle Caroline never pretended to be the musician that 
Anne was. Nevertheless, we find Handel still drawing 
his i^20o a year as their music master some years after 
Anne's marriage.^ But court favour could not ensure 
Handel against ill-luck and the injuries of determined 
enemies. His lease of the Haymarket Theatre expired 
in July 1734, and before he could renew it, his rivals, by 
a clever piece of sharp practice, stepped in and secured the 
theatre for themselves. Worse still, they strengthened 
their company by the addition of the famous Farinelli, 
the most prodigiously gifted singer of the age, who had 
already turned the heads of all the amateurs on the 
Continent, and was shortly to throw Senesino, Carestini, 
and all the rest into the shade, so far as England was 
concerned. But Handel never knew what it was to be 
beaten. He accepted the inevitable, and hastened to 
secure the new theatre in Covent Garden which had 
been built a few years before by John Rich. His mana- 
gerial worries do not seem to have affected his spirits in 
the least. We have a pleasant glimpse of him at a musical 
party at Mrs. Delany's about this time. "Mr. Handel 
was in the best humour in the world," wrote the hostess 
to her sister. " He played lessons and accompanied 
Strada and all the ladies that sung, from seven o'clock till 

' Treasury Papers, 1736. 


eleven. I gave them tea and coffee, and about half an 
hour after nine had a salver brought in of chocolate, 
mulled white wine, and biscuits. Everybody was easy 
and seemed pleased."^ Meanwhile Handel's plans were 
slightly modified by the claims of his old friend Anne, now 
Princess of Orange, who had been spending the summer 
in England, and wanted to hear some music before 
rejoining her husband at the Hague. So, to oblige her, 
Handel took the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and 
opened a short season there on the 5 th of October 
1734, relying chiefly upon Ariadne and // Pastor Fido, 
which had been revived with great success during the 
previous season in a much revised and altered form. 
In November he moved to the far more convenient theatre 
in Covent Garden, signalising his arrival in his new 
quarters by the production of a ballet, TerpsichorCy played 
as a prologue to // Pastor Fido, in which the French 
ballerina Mile. Salle, who had already danced herself into 
the favour of London audiences in Rich's pantomimes at 
Lincoln's Inn Fields, made her appearance. He also pro- 
duced a pasticcio selected from his own works, entitled 
Oi'estes. These were followed by a new opera, Ariodante 
(8th January 1735). Carestini was still with Handel, but 
even the magic of his mellifluous voice was powerless in the 
face of the brilliant galaxy of talent which the opposition 
had assembled at the King's Theatre. Farinelli, Senesino 
Cuzzoni, and Montagnana formed, indeed, a combina- 
tion that was hard to beat — and harder still to pay, 
as the aristocratic directors found ere long to their 

The Farinelli furore soon reached the borders of 
positive insanity. " On aimait les autres," wrote the Abb6 

^ Delany, Correspondence, vol. i. 


Prevost, " pour celui-ci, on en est idolatre; c'est une fureur." ^ 
His singing entranced even a jealous rival like Senesino, 
who, when they first appeared together, burst into tears 
at the conclusion of Farinelli's first song, and, forgetful 
of all else, ran across the stage and threw himself into 
Farinelli's arms. What his audiences thought of him 
may be summed up in the 'famous exclamation wrung from 
a too impressionable dame, and afterwards immortalised 
by Hogarth in " The Rake's Progress " : " One God, one 
Farinelli ! " But the enthusiasm of his English admirers 
took a more practical form. The Prince of Wales gave 
him a gold snuff-box set with diamonds and rubies, con- 
taining a pair of diamond knee buckles and a purse 
of a hundred guineas ; and society followed suit to such 
purpose that though Farinelli's salary was only ;^i5oo, 
he contrived during his stay in London to make no less 
than ;^5ooo a year. On his return to Italy he built a 
villa with the proceeds of his trip to England, which he 
not inaptly christened the " English Folly." In the face 
of the general infatuation for Farinelli, Handel and his 
" scrubbs " were helpless, and his enemies triumphed over 
his defeat. In a private letter of the 27th of December 
1734 in the Th'ockuw7'ton Papers we read : " I don't pity 
Handel in the least, for I hope this mortification will make 
him a human creature ; for I am sure before he was no 
better than a brute, when he could treat civilised people 
with so much brutality as I know he has done." ^ 

With the approach of Lent, Handel turned his energies 
in the far more profitable direction of oratorio. With 
his second-rate company he could scarcely hope to 
compete with the brilliant operatic performances at the 

^ Le Potir et le Contre, v. 204. 

^ Historical MSS. Commission, Appendix to 3rd Report. 


Haymarket, but in oratorio he was supreme, and Porpora's 
attempt to rival him on his own ground by producing his 
oratorio David only recoiled on his own head. During 
Lent Esther was given six times, Deborah thrice, and 
AthaliaJi five times — a sufficient proof that London 
was steadily learning to cultivate a taste for the new 

An interesting feature of this year's oratorio season 
was the intoduction of organ concertos between the acts, 
as they were still called. Handel's fingers had not lost 
their old cunning, and his performance was extremely 
popular. Mrs. Delany wrote of it to her mother : " My 
sister gave you an account of Mr, Handel's playing here 
for three hours together. I did wish for you, for no 
entertainment in music could exceed it, except his playing 
on the organ in Esther, where he performs a part in two 
concertos, that are the finest things I ever heard in my 

Another event of the season worth recording is the 
first appearance under Handel's standard of the famous 
tenor, John Beard. Beard had sung as a boy in the 
performance of Esther given in 1732 at Bernard Gates's 
house by the choristers of the Chapel Royal. He is 
referred to in a letter of Lady Elizabeth Compton's, dated 
the 2ist of November 1734. "A Scholar of Mr. Gates, 
Beard, who left the Chapel last Easter, shines in the 
opera of Covent Garden, and Mr. Handel is so full of 
his Praises that he says he will surprise the Town with 
his performance before the Winter is over."^ Beard 
seems only to have sung minor roles until 1736, when he 
took the principal tenor part in Alexander's Feast. He 

^ Delany, Correspondence, vol. i. 

^ Hisiorital MSS. Commisson, Report xi. Appendix, pt. 4. 


afterwards sang in many of Handel's oratorios, notably in 
Israel in Egypt, Samson, and Jephtha. 

When Lent was over, Handel returned to opera, and in 
Alcina (i6th April 1735) scored one of the most brilliant 
successes of his career, though the dances, with which 
the opera was liberally besprinkled, were not well re- 
ceived, and Mile. Salle, who seems to have quite outlived 
her popularity, was actually hissed.^ Mrs. Delany writes 
of Alcina with special enthusiasm : " Yesterday morning 
my sister and I went to Mr. Handel's house to hear the 
first rehearsal of the new opera Alcina. I think it is the 
best he ever made, but I have thought so of so many, that 
I will not say positively 'tis the finest, but 'tis so fine 
I have not words to describe it. Strada has a whole 
scene of charming recitative — there are a thousand 
beauties. Whilst Mr. Handel was playing his part, 
I could not help thinking him a necromancer in the 
midst of his own enchantments." Handel had, of course, 
the usual trouble with his singers. Carestini grew restive 
under his dictatorship, and refused to sing the lovely air 
" Verdi prati." " You dog ! " cried the composer, " Don't 
I know better as yourself what is good for you to sing ? 
If you will not sing all the songs what I give you, I will 
not pay you a stiver." Carestini sang the song, and with 
it scored one of his most brilliant triumphs, but he never 
forgave the composer, and left the company at the end of 
the season. Deprived of his leading man, and unable at 
the moment to find an adequate substitute, Handel was 
reduced to silence. He thought it was wiser to keep his 
theatre closed, than to open it in a despairing attempt 
to compete with his invincible rivals in the Hay market. 
In the following year, however, he entered the lists with 

^ Prevost, Le Pour et le Centre, vi. 35. 


a new choral work, Alexander's Feast, which was produced 
on the 19th of February with overwhelming success. 
Musical criticism figures so rarely in the newspapers of 
the day, that the London Daily Post's observations are 
worth recording: "There never was upon the like 
occasion so numerous and splendid an audience at any 
theatre in London, there being at least thirteen hundred 
persons present ; and it is judged that the receipt of the 
house could not amount to less than ;^450. It met with 
general applause, though attended with the inconvenience 
of having the performers placed at too great a distance 
from the audience, which we hear will be rectified the 
next time of performance." The success of Alexanders 
Feast must have cheered Handel more than a little, but 
hard work and the incessant worries of a managerial life 
had already begun to tell seriously upon his health. 
During the past few years he had paid several visits to 
Tunbridge Wells, but the baths there had done him little 
good, and he was troubled by presages of approaching 

The marriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess 
Augusta of Saxe-Gotha roused him to fresh activity. He 
wrote a new wedding anthem, " Sing unto God," which was 
duly performed at the ceremony in the Chapel Royal on 
the 27th of April 1736, and he opened a short opera season 
on the 5th of May, the principal interest of which centred in 
the production of Atalanta on the 12th of May. Atalanta, 
being written to celebrate the Royal marriage, was of an 
appropriately festive character. It ended with a nuptial 
chorus in the Temple of Hymen, and a display of fireworks. 
Atalanta seems to have won the Prince of Wales's heart, 
or, more probably, the departure of the Princess Royal 
removed his only reason for objecting to Handel's music. 


At any rate, from this time forth he was a cordial sup- 
porter of the Covent Garden opera, while the King, who 
was determined, whatever happened, never to be on the 
same side as his son, discontinued his support. The 
opposition at the King's Theatre, not to be outdone by- 
Handel, produced a marriage cantata, La Festa (flmeneo, 
by Porpora ; but in spite of Farinelli's singing it fell lament- 
ably flat, and was only given two or three times. The 
truth was that Farinelli had already outstayed his welcome. 
He had been the wonder of an hour, but the fickle public 
was getting tired of him and of the rubbishy operas in 
which he sung, and was on the look-out for a new ex- 

" When I went out of Town last autumn," wrote Mrs. 
Delany to Swift, " the reigning madness was Farinelli ; I 
find it now turned on Pasquin} a dramatic satire on the 
times. It has had almost as long a run as the Beggar s 
Opera, but in my opinion not with equal merit, though it 
has humour." 

With the opening of the autumn season, Handel's hopes 
rose high. The Haymarket opera was on its last legs. 
Senesino had already gone home, and Farinelli was 
beginning to think about taking his departure. Handel 
now had the Prince and Princess of Wales on his side, 
and his company was strengthened by the accession of 
several new and promising recruits. Mrs. Delany was in 
high spirits : " At the Haymarket," she wrote, " they have 
Farinelli, Merighi, — with no sound in her voice, but 
thundering action, a beauty with no other merit, — and one 
Chimenti, a tolerable good woman with a pretty voice, 
and Montagnana who roars as usual ! With this band of 
singers and dull Italian operas, such as you almost fall 

' By Henry Fielding. 


asleep at, they presume to rival Handel, who has Strada, 
that sings better than ever she did, Gizziello,^ who is much 
improved since last year, and Annibali,^ who has the best 
part of Senesino's voice and Carestino's, with a prodigious 
fine taste and good action, . . . Mr. Handel has two new 
operas ready, Anninius and Giustino. He was here two 
or three mornings ago, and played to me both the over- 
tures, which are charming." ^ 

Handel worked with the courage of despair. His 
expenses had been heavy, and with the advent of his new 
singers would be heavier still, but hope sprang eternal in 
his breast. The approaching collapse of the Haymarket 
opera, which was an open secret, nerved him to fresh 
efforts. During the spring of 1737 he produced no fewer 
than three new operas, Arminio (January 12), Giustino 
(February 16), and Berenice (May 18), besides revising his 
thirty-year-old Italian oratorio, // Trionfo del Tempo, 
for the Lenten performances. No constitution, however 
Herculean, could stand such a strain, and the inevitable 
breakdown came in the middle of April. By the end of 
the month Handel was a little better, and the London 
Daily Post was able to announce that " Mr. Handel, who 
had been some time indisposed with the rheumatism, is in 
so fair a way of recovery that it is hoped he will be able to 
accompany the opera oi Justin on the 24th of May." He 
contrived to pull himself together, but before the end of 
the season came another collapse. This time it was 
useless to disguise the fact that the malady was paralysis, 

' Gioachino Conti, called Gizziello after his master Gizzi. He ?iad a high 
soprano voice, and his style was remarkable for delicacy and refinement. He 
made his English debut in Atalaiita. 

• Domenico Annibali, a contralto who came to London from Dresden. 

^ Delany, Correspondence, vol. i. 


which completely crippled his right hand, complicated by- 
serious brain trouble.^ The mighty Handel was reduced 
to a state bordering upon childishness, and it was only 
with the greatest difficulty that his friends could induce 
him to start for Aix-la-Chapelle, where it was hoped that 
the sulphur baths would cure him. By the side of this 
grievous affliction the final failure of his operatic enterprise 
seemed a trifle. A failure it was, disastrous and complete. 
When Covent Garden closed its doors on the ist of June, 
Handel was a bankrupt. The savings of a lifetime, 
amounting to iS^ 1 0,000, were scattered to the winds, and 
his creditors — artists and tradesmen alike — had to be 
satisfied with bills. To the credit of mankind be it 
recorded, that in all cases, save that of Signor del P6, 
Strada's husband, they were accepted, and in due time 
redeemed. It was a poor consolation to Handel that in 
ruining him his opponents had ruined themselves. The 
Haymarket opera struggled on for ten days longer, when 
the unexpected departure of Farinelli brought matters to 
a sudden and ignoble collapse. The rival enterprises had 
devoured each other, and the town turned with a sigh of 
relief from their futile struggles to the broad humours of 
The Dragon of Wantley, in which the pompous inanity 
of grand opera was mercilessly parodied. The somewhat 
obvious fun of Henry Carey's burlesque delighted the 
King, who kept poor dying Queen Caroline from her bed 
by his interminable descriptions of the dragon's antics,^ 
and Lampe's vivacious music extorted an approving smile 
even from Handel, overwhelmed as he was with debt and 

The end was perhaps inevitable, nor in the interests 

^ Shaftesbury Biographical Sketch. 

^ Hervey, Memoirs, iii. 295. ^ IVentworth Papers, p. 539. 


of art much to be deplored. Opera in England then, as 
now, was an exotic. It had no root in the affections of 
the general public ; it merely catered for the whimsies of 
a pleasure-seeking aristocracy. None save a very select 
few pretended to think that the entertainment was any- 
thing more than a social festivity. The beaux and belles 
of the day went to hear Senesino and Farinelli, just as 
our modern grandees go to hear Melba and Tetrazzini, and 
cared little or nothing what music they listened to. The 
flame of partisanship burnt fiercely for a while. People 
quarrelled passionately over rival houses and rival singers, 
but the very excesses into which their frenzy led them 
brought about a speedy reaction. 

Sensible people like Mrs. Delany realised very soon 
that all the strife and partisanship did not imply any real 
interest in music. " Our operas," she wrote to Swift, 
" have given much cause of dissension. Men and women 
have been deeply engaged, and no debate in the House of 
Commons has been urged with more warmth. The dispute 
of the merits of the composers and singers is carried to so 
great a height, that it is much feared by all true lovers 
of music that operas will be quite overturned. I own I 
think we make a very silly figure about it." ^ Nothing is 
so healthy for the cause of art as discussions and debate 
or even a good hand-to-hand fight, when the difference 
of opinion springs from genuine interest and enthusiasm. 
But the operatic wars of the eighteenth century were 
merely the squabbles of idle children over their play- 
things. A new toy caught their eye, and their once 
cherished puppets were cast upon the dust-heap. The 
mournful part of the business from our point of view is 
that one of the puppets was a man of genius. 

^ Delany, Correspondence^ vol. i. 


But Handel emerged uninjured, if breathless, from the 
struggle. The mire of aristocratic intrigue had not sullied 
his garments. Even in that murky atmosphere the flame 
of his genius burnt clear and pure. Whoever had cause 
to blush, he had none. He had worked loyally in the 
cause of art through all dangers and difficulties, and he 
could look back upon those anxious years of toil and 
endeavour without shame or regret. He had cast his 
pearls before swine, and had seen them trampled under 
foot. He had learned his lesson in a hard school, and had 
paid dearly for it. At last it was over, and the experience 
that he had bought at so ruinous a price was in the end 
to lead him to a wider immortality than any that could be 
conferred by the fickle favour of courts and courtiers. 


AIX-LA-CHAPELLE made a new man of Handel ; 
indeed, he recovered his health so rapidly under 
the genial influence of the waters, that the good people of 
the place were inclined to believe that a miracle had been 
wrought on behalf of their famous visitor. While he was 
at Aix, Handel seems to have made the acquaintance of 
some honest burghers from the city of Elbing, near the 
Baltic coast. Elbing was preparing to celebrate the five- 
hundredth anniversary of her foundation, and Handel, 
whose speedy recovery had had the effect of putting him 
into an unusually amiable frame of mind, consented to 
join forces with a local musician in composing a cantata 
for the occasion. Records of the work exist, but the 
music has unfortunately disappeared.^ 

Another story, told by Coxe in his Anecdotes of Handel, 
seems to refer to Handel's " cure " at Aix, though it is 
difficult to make it fit in with the facts. Frederick the 
Great was on his way to the baths, and hearing that 
Handel was there sent a messenger to say that he wished 
to see him. Presumably the message was couched, or at 
least delivered, in what Handel considered insolent terms, 

^ Doering, " Die Musik im Preussen." {Monatshefte fiir Mtisikgeschichte, 
i. I55-) 



at any rate his back was up in a moment, and he left the 
place a few days before the arrival of the King. The only 
objection to this interesting anecdote is that Frederick 
was not at xA.ix nor anywhere in its neighbourhood in 
the year 1737. His only visit to Aix, which he thought 
" le pays le plus sot que je connaisse," took place in 
September 1741, while Handel was writing The Messiah 
in London, It is certainly a pity that Frederick never 
happened to meet Handel. He was himself a musician, 
and the man who silenced the chatter of his courtiers 
with the words : " Gentlemen, the great Bach has arrived," 
could hardly have failed to appreciate Handel. 

Handel left Aix in October, and returned to England 
via Flanders. In Lord Shaftesbury's BiograpJiical Sketch 
there is an anecdote relating to the journey which has not, 
I think, been printed before : " His recovery was so com- 
plete that in his return thence to England he was able 
to play long voluntaries upon the organ. In one of the 
great towns of Flanders, where he had asked permission 
to play, the organist attended him, not knowing who he 
was, and seemed struck with Mr. Handel's playing when 
he began. But when he heard Mr. Handel lead off a 
fugue, in astonishment he ran up to him, and embracing 
him said, ' You can be no other but the great Handel.'" 

Handel reached London early in November, " greatly 
recovered in health." ^ 

He arrived only just in time to add his private sorrow 
to the general grief of the nation at the death of Queen 
Caroline, who expired after a short illness on the 20th of 
November. No English sovereign was ever more widely 
or genuinely mourned. Over her coffin king and clod- 
hopper mingled their tears. George II showed his 

1 London Daily Post, 7th November 1737. 


sorrow in peculiarly characteristic fashion, but of its 
sincerity there cannot be a doubt. Though his in- 
fidelities had been notorious, his respect for Caroline's 
talents and his admiration of her virtues had never 
wavered. On her death-bed she entreated him to marry 
again. " Non, non," he whimpered, "j'aurai des mai- 
tresses." " Mon Dieu," she replied, remembering her own 
experiences, " cela n'empeche pas." 

The King was inconsolable for many months after her 
death, and seems to have been a prey to strange super- 
stitions. Duchess Sarah tells an odd story of his 
behaviour at the card-table : " Some queens were dealt 
to him, which renewed his trouble so much, and put him 
into so great disorder, that the Princess Amelia immedi- 
ately ordered all the queens to be taken out of the pack." ^ 
The King's thoughts ran upon ghosts and vampires. Lord 
VVentworth gives a curious illustration of his superstitious 
terror : " Saturday night between one and two o'clock, the 
King waked out of a dream very uneasy, and ordered the 
vault, where the Queen is, to be broken open immediately, 
and have the coffin also opened ; and went in a hackney 
chair through the Horse Guards to Westminster Abbey, 
and back again to bed. I think it is the strangest thing 
that could be." - 

Handel was not troubled by the King's childish fancies, 
but his grief was scarcely less profound. Caroline was 
one of his oldest friends. He had met her first when 
they were children together at the court of Berlin, He 
had learnt to know her better at Hanover, and since they 
had been in England she had always been his staunchest 
patroness and supporter. He poured forth his sorrow in 

^ Correspondence of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, vol. ii. 
- Wentworth Papers, p. 538. 


the marvellous strains of the Funeral Anthem, " The 
ways of Zion do mourn," which was performed at 
the ceremony in Westminster Abbey, on the 17th of 
December, a noble tribute to a great and good woman, 
which for sublimity of thought and expression Handel 
himself rarely surpassed. 

Handel's recent experiences in the arena of Italian 
opera were not calculated to make him anxious to return 
to the fray. But beggars cannot be choosers ; his debts 
were still unpaid, and his creditors were pressing. When 
therefore he was approached by Heidegger,^ who had 
gathered together the wreck and remnant of the two 
companies that had failed in the summer, and with char- 
acteristic energy had started a season at the King's 
Theatre, he felt it his duty to enter into negotiations 
with his quondam partner. After some deliberation it 
was agreed that for a consideration of ;^iooo Handel 
should supply Heidegger with two new operas, and should 
arrange a pasticcio from his earlier works. It must have 
been gall and wormwood to Handel to be forced once 
more into business relations with the man who had 
behaved so badly to him at a time when he most needed 
friends, but Handel was nothing if not conscientious, and 
he felt that his own feelings must give way. The operas 
were dashed off at lightning speed, and duly produced, 

^ Heidegger is usually supposed to have been responsible for the season, 
as the advertisements relative to the subscription that appeared in the news- 
papers were signed by him, but Lord Shaftesbury's Biographical Sketch 
distinctly says that Handel composed Faramondo and Serse " for the 
gentlemen at the Haymarket," so it is probable that Heidegger was backed 
by a board of aristocratic directors similar to that presided over by Lord 
Middlesex in 1741. Lord Middlesex himself does not appear to have begun 
to dabble in management until 1739, when Mrs. Delany mentions that he 
was " chief undertaker " of a season of concerts at the Haymarket Theatre. 


Faramondo on the 7th of January, and Serse on the 15th 
of April 1738. The pasticcio was Alessandro Severe, 
which with a few new songs and a new and very fine 
overture was given on the 25th of February. 

Heidegger's company included some good singers. 
Caffarelli, a contralto, was the most famous of them ; but 
Francesina, a youthful soprano with a pretty voice and 
what Burney calls " a lark-like execution," and Marchesini, 
called La Lucchesina, were both of them artists of high 
quality. Montagnana, with his thundering bass voice, 
was also engaged. Caffarelli was thought by many 
critics to be superior to Farinelli, but he did not make 
much of a success in London. He is said to have been 
in bad health during his sojourn here, and he came at 
an unfortunate time — when society had been sated with 
Italian opera, and was weary of the endless quarrels and 
rivalries which seemed to be its inevitable accompaniment.^ 

The season was a calamitous one, and the only time 
that the theatre was full was on the 20th of March, when 
Handel was constrained by his friends to take a " benefit." 
It is easy to understand how distasteful to a man of his 
independent spirit it must have been to accept a favour 
of this kind, but circumstances forbade him to stand 
upon his dignity. Del P6, who was still one of his 
principal creditors, was more insistent than ever, and even 
threatened the composer with a debtors' prison. The 

^ Caffarelli's insolence and conceit caused him to be as heartily disliked as 
Farinelli was beloved for his amiability. He lived to a good old age, and 
retained his voice almost to the last. Burney heard him at Naples in 1770, 
when he was sixty-seven. "Though his voice was thin," he remarks, "it 
was easy to imagine, from what he was still able to do, that his voice and 
talents had been of the very first class." He was then living in a sumptuous 
house of his own building, over the door of which was inscribed the legend, 
" Amphion Thebas, ego domum." 


" benefit " had the effect of stopping his greedy mouth. 
It realised a large sum of money, according to Burney 
£800, according to Mainvvaring ^1500, but at any rate 
enough to stave off the more pressing claims and to give 
the composer time to look around him. Another graceful 
compliment was paid to his genius about this time, in the 
erection of a marble statue of him by the rising young 
sculptor Roubillac, or Roubiliac, as he is usually called in 
English, in Vauxhall Gardens, a popular place of resort, 
which had been opened in 1732, where Handel's music 
was often performed.^ 

After the close of the opera season on the 5th of June, 
Handel probably left London. Between the 23rd of July 
and the 27th of September he was engaged upon the 
composition of Saii/, the libretto of which is believed to 
have been the work of Charles Jennens,- who later 
adapted Milton's L Allegro ed il Penseroso for Handel, 
and furnished him with the text of TJie Messiah. Handel 
had a sincere regard for Jennens, and often stayed at his 
country house at Gopsall in Leicestershire. If Jennens 
wrote Saul, it is likely enough that he invited Handel to 
spend the summer with him, the advantage to librettist 
and composer alike of being under the same roof being 
undeniable. Jennens was one of those men whose char- 
acter is very difficult to reconstruct from contemporary 

^ This statue, after passing through many hands, is now the property of 
Mr. Alfred Littleton, the head of the firm of Novello & Co. It stands in the 
entrance hall of Messrs. Novello's beautiful new place of business in Wardour 

^ A letter of Handel's to Jennens is extant, written in 1735, acknowledging 
the receipt of an oratorio of which he writes : " What I could read of it in 
haste gave me a great deal of satisfaction. " There is no reason for doubting 
that the work referred to was Saul, the next in order of Handel's oratorios, 
the authorship of which was never acknowledged. 


evidence. He was rich, generous and eccentric, and had 
an excellent conceit of himself. He was surrounded by 
parasites who flattered him and often lured him into 
making a fool of himself by writing about things that he 
did not understand, as, for instance, in his controversy with 
Dr. Johnson and George Steevens about Shakespeare. 
At the same time he was a staunch friend and a bene- 
volent and hospitable neighbour, besides being a man of 
considerable culture. During his quarrel with Steevens a 
friend of his wrote : " I assert that Mr. Jennens is a man 
of abilities ; is conversant in the Polite Arts ; that he 
understands Musick, Poetry and Painting. I appeal to 
the catalogue of his Pictures, which bear all the living 
testimony that Pictures can bear of original and intrinsic 
merit. His taste in Musick is still less disputable — the 
compilation of The Messiah has been ever attributed to 
him. Handel generally consulted him, and to the time of 
his death lived with him in the strictest intimacy and 
regard. Was Handel so mean and despicable as to offer 
incense at the shrine of Ignorance?"' Jennens loved 
display. In his youth the splendour of his household 
earned him the nickname of " Solyman the Magnificent." 
All through his life he made a point of doing things in 
the grand style. If he wanted to go from his town house 
in Great Ormond Street to call on his printer in Red 
Lion Passage, he must needs travel with four servants 
behind his carriage. When he alit, a footman walked 
before him up the paved passage, to kick oyster-shells 
and other impediments out of his way. At Gopsall 
Handel had the advantage of tranquillity, comfort and 
congenial society, for Jennens was a bachelor like himself. 
It is perhaps worth noting that fifty years after Handel's 

^ Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, vol. iii. 


death a tradition existed to the effect that some at any 
rate of his oratorios were composed at Gopsall, A local 
parson contributed the following note to Nichols's Literary 
Anecdotes: " I know not whether you are ^ware that there 
is a probability, I think almost an immediate proof, that 
Handel's oratorios took their rise in this county. The 
rich Mr. Jennens of Gopsall was a man of great piety, 
beneficence and taste in the fine arts. He built a mag- 
nificent house, and in it a beautiful chapel, in which he 
read prayers to his family daily. Handel (who, you know, 
loved good living) was often his guest, as also Dr. Bentley 
of Nailston, his neighbour, nephew of the great Bentley. 
1 have heard that the idea of the oratorios was Mr. 
Jennens's, and Dr. Bentley furnished the words." If Dr. 
Bentley, who by the way was a scholar of some considera- 
tion and his famous uncle's literary executor,^ had any 
hand in the production of Saul, the world has good reason 
to be grateful to him ; and still more so if he was in any 
way responsible for Israel in Egypt, which Handel began 
four days after he had finished Saul. It would be 
interesting to know what first led Handel to undertake 
the composition of his gigantic epic, so different in aim 
and structure from any of his previous works. It is plain 
that originally he had no idea of writing anything in the 
received oratorio form. He began with what is now the 
second part, the autograph of which is headed " Moses' 

^ He was christened Richard after his uncle, but is often confused with 
another of the great Bentley's nephews, Thomas, whom Pope attacked in the 
Dimciad : — 

" Bentley his mouth with classic flattery opes 
And the puff'd orator bursts out in tropes." 

Thomas Bentley was a friend of Byrom's, and wrote him amusing letters 
from abroad, which are published in Byrom's Remains. 


Song, Exodus, chapter xv." Apparently he intended 
something in the nature of an anthem, but the subject 
fascinated him, and when he had finished the second part, 
he wrote the first part as a kind of prelude. Saul and 
Israel were both produced during the following year at 
the King's Theatre, which Handel hired from Heidegger 
for his oratorio concerts — Saul on January i6, and Israel 
on April 4, 1739. 

In the case of Saul, Handel, who like many other 
great composers was accused by his contemporaries of 
a passion for mere noise, took pains to add a special 
touch of dignity to the famous Dead March. " I hear," 
wrote young Lord Wentworth to his father, "that Mr. 
Handel has borrowed from the Duke of Argyll a pair 
of the largest kettle-drums in the Tower ; so to be sure it 
will be most excessive noisy with a bad set of singers. 
I doubt it will not retrieve his former losses."^ Saul, 
however, was on the whole a success, being given six 
times during the season. Israel, on the other hand, seems 
to have been above the heads of the audiences of that day. 
After the first performance, it was only thrice repeated, 
and in a form altered to fit it more harmoniously 
to the taste of the day, according to the advertisement : 
" shortened and intermixed with songs." It must have been 
a bitter pill to Handel to be compelled to mutilate his great 
work to suit the artistic depravity of London audiences. 
The songs introduced were not the adaptations of Italian 
airs to Biblical words that are now occasionally given 
in performances of the oratorio, but popular airs from 
his earlier works and some new Italian songs apparently 
written for the occasion, which were thrust into Israel 
without the semblance of any appropriateness. A further 

1 Wentworth Papers, p. 543. 


alteration was the introduction of the Funeral Anthem, 
which was performed at the beginning of the oratorio, 
the words being altered so as to apply to the death of 
Joseph. In spite of these almost cynical concessions to 
popular taste, Israel did not please. A few voices, how- 
ever, cried in the desert. Two anonymous admirers 
poured forth their enthusiasm in letters to the London 
Daily Post} but the general public was not to be beguiled. 

By the middle of April the new oratorios seem to have 
exhausted their powers of attraction, and Handel fell 
back upon a different kind of entertainment. On the 
26th an advertisement appeared in the London Daily Post 
to this effect: "On Tuesday next, ist May, will be per- 
formed, at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, a 
dramatical composition c2l\{q^ Jtipiter in Argos^ intermixed 
with choruses, and two concertos on the organ." What 
Jupiter in Argos exactly was is now difficult to deter- 
mine. The autograph has disappeared, all save the last 
leaf, which is preserved in the Fitzwilliam Library at 
Cambridge, and bears the inscription : " Fine dell' opera 
Jupiter in Argos, April 24, 1739. G. F. Handel." 
Although Handel called it an opera, the terms used in 
the advertisement point rather to its being something 
of the same kind as Parnasso in Fcsta, which was still 
far from having lost its popularity. Probably it was a 
pasticcio, hastily put together to meet the emergency, 
but no proof of its having been actually performed can 
be adduced. 

If the season as a whole had turned out a failure, it 
is hardly fair to lay all the blame upon London society. 
The political excitement of the time was unfavourable to 
music or to art of any kind. War was in the air, and 

' See Appendix B. 


Bellona elbowed Polyhymnia from the field. John Bull 
had awoke from his long sleep, and wanted to go out 
and fight somebody. 

Walpole and his peace policy had ruled the roost for 
thirty years. He had made England the greatest com- 
mercial nation in the world ; he had doubled her income, 
and given her peace and prosperity. But in a moment he 
and his benefits were forgotten. The lust of war de- 
scended upon the nation, and all peaceful interests bent 
before the storm of martial ardour. 

The " Patriots," as the Opposition called themselves, 
were always on the look out for sticks wherewith to beat 
Walpole. They found one ready to their hand in the 
supposed aggression of our historic enemy, Spain. We 
were, as usual, entirely in the wrong. In defiance of the 
Treaty of Utrecht, our traders had for years been carrying 
on a roaring trade — largely in slaves — with the Spanish 
colonies. In vain the Spanish authorities had endeavoured 
to put some check upon this vast system of smuggling. 
From time to time brushes with our privateers occurred, 
and now and then Englishmen found their way into 
Spanish prisons. After all, Spain was only asserting her 
just rights, if occasionally in a high-handed and arbitrary 
manner. But it was easy for Pulteney and his " Patriots " 
to make out a case against her. Popular passion was 
fanned by the usual trickery, and the excitement reached 
its height when a master mariner named Jenkins was 
produced at the bar of the House of Commons. Jenkins 
had a thrilling story to tell. Some years before, his vessel 
had been boarded off Havana by Spanish revenue officers. 
Innocent as a babe as he was, he had been shamefully 
maltreated. He had been hanged at the yard-arm and 
cut down half-dead. He had been slashed with cutlasses 


and his left ear had been torn off by a Spanish miscreant, 
who flung" it in his face, bidding him carry it home to 
King George, " In that supreme moment," concluded 
Jenkins with dramatic solemnity, " I commended my soul 
to God and my cause to my country." The phrase flew 
like wild-fire through the country The war fever seized all 
classes alike. Walpole vainly struggled for peace. The 
country was against him, and it was a case of yielding 
to their will or resigning office. He chose the former, 
and declared war with Spain. 

London threw its cap into the air, and roared huzza ! 
with all its thousand throats. The city blazed with flags 
and pennons, and bells rang defiance from every steeple. 
Throngs of vengeance-breathing heroes paraded the streets, 
and the Prince of Wales joined with the mob at Temple 
Bar in drinking success to the campaign. While the 
frenzy reigned, Handel sat gloomily in his empty theatre. 
It was useless to struggle against the tide of popular 
feeling. We who remember the opening days of the 
Boer War can fully realise the situation. There was 
nothing to be done but wait till the martial enthusiasm 
of the country had expended itself in idle vapouring, and 
society returned once more to its ordinary avocations. 

In the autumn, Handel, whose losses of late had been 
severe, clipped the wings of his ambition and moved to 
the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where, on the 17th 
of November 1739, he produced his setting of Dryden's 
Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, which seems to have pleased his 
patrons, since it was repeated several times during the 
season in conjunction with either Alexander's Feast or 
Acis and Galatea. Doubtless its success would have been 
greater than it was, but during that winter the elements 
fought against Handel, and owing to an exceptionally 


severe frost he was compelled to close his theatre from 
the 20th of December to the 21st of February. It is easy 
to believe that in Handel's days theatres were very far 
from being the cosy luxurious temples of amusement 
that they now are, and the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre 
was notoriously ill built and uncomfortable. Handel did 
all that he could. His advertisements in the London 
Daily Post are almost pathetic : " Particular care has been 
taken to have the House surveyed and secured against 
the cold, by having curtains placed before every door, 
and constant fire will be kept in the House till the time of 
performance," But it was useless to expect people to brave 
the terrors of an Arctic temperature in order to listen to 
good music. Even in favourable weather it was as much 
as he could do to scrape together an audience, and when 
the frost set in, the case was hopeless. For some reason 
best known to the clerk of the weather, the winters in the 
eighteenth century were decidedly more severe than they 
are in our days, or at any rate people made far more fuss 
about them. Owing to the arches of old London Bridge 
getting choked with ice, it was by no means uncommon 
for the Thames " above bridge " to be frozen so hard that 
a " Frost Fair," or " Blanket Fair " as it was sometimes 
called, could be held upon it. When this happened, as it 
did in the winter of 1739-40, London gave itself up to 
a kind of impromptu carnival. The Thames for the time 
being was a debatable land, over which none of the 
recognised authorities cared to exercise any jurisdiction. 
Everybody did what he liked, and the fun was as fast as 
it was furious. It was the right thing for the aristocracy 
to come down and join in the people's sports at " Frost 
Fair." Charles II set the fashion in the great frost of 
1684, and in 17 16 George II, then Prince of Wales, 

':fi' Pi 


followed his example. In 1740 the frozen Thames was 
a little town of tents and booths. Coaches plied between 
Lambeth and London Bridge, and every form of festivity 
and diversion was practised, the roasting of oxen being 
of course a special feature. As usual, merriment and 
misery went hand in hand, for the distress among the 
lower classes must have been very severe. But London 
was prosperous and charitable, and there are many records 
of benevolent endeavour to relieve the pressing necessities 
of those whom the frost had robbed of employment. 

It would have needed a harder frost even than that of 
1740 to check the flow of Handel's inspiration. While 
London was disporting itself upon the icebound Thames 
he was busily setting to music a strange libretto, concocted 
by his friend Jennens out of Milton's U Allegro and // 
Penseroso. Not content with boiling down the two 
poems into a singularly inharmonious whole, he added 
a coda of his own, entitled // Moderato, in which the 
virtues of moderation are celebrated in numbers which 
would sound awkward and ungainly in any company, 
and by the side of Milton's sonorous lines seem doubly 
pedestrian. The libretto, however, inspired Handel, who 
wrote to it some of the most romantic and picturesque 
music that he ever composed. Handel's L Allegro in 
its turn inspired a nameless bard, who, after hearing it 
performed, burst into verse of the following quality: — 

" If e'er Arion's music calmed the floods, 
And Orpheus ever drew the dancing woods, 
Why do not British trees and forests throng 
To hear the sweeter notes of Handel's song ? " ' 

Unfortunately for Handel not only did the British 
trees and forests refuse to throng to his concerts, but the 

^ Gentle?)ian s Magazine, May 1 740. 


British lords and ladies as well. The aristocratic cabal 
against him and his music was as bitter and as powerful 
as ever, and at the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre empty 
benches were the rule rather than the exception. But his 
pluck was inexhaustible. During the next season he 
dropped sacred oratorio altogether, save for a single per- 
formance of Saul, and offered his patrons only works of a 
lighter cast. In his determination to succeed he even 
fell back upon his old love, Italian opera. Despite the 
fact that to those who remembered Faustina, Cuzzoni, 
Senesino, and the great singers of the past, his company 
must have seemed, to borrow Lady Bristol's graceful 
expression, " a set of scrubbs," he produced a two-act 
operetta, /m^;?^(? (22nd November 1740), with the composi- 
tion of which he had amused himself two years before 
in the intervals of writing Saul, and wrote a new opera, 
Deidamia, to a libretto by his old enemy Rolli, which was 
performed for the first time on the loth of January 1741. 
All was in vain. Serious music was a drug in the market. 
The Beggars Opera, The Dragon of Wantley, and their 
thousand and one successors had revolutionised popular 
taste in music, just as Hogarth had revolutionised it in 
art. Handel owned himself defeated, and his defeat was 
embittered by the apologetic attitude taken up by some 
who called themselves his friends. On the 4th of April 
1 741, the London Daily Post published a portentous 
rigmarole singed J. B., in which a kind of attempt is made 
to recommend Handel to the good graces of the aristo- 
cratic ignoramuses who had been doing their best to ruin 
him. " I wish," writes the amiable J. B., " that I could 
persuade the gentlemen of figure and weight, who have 
taken offence at any part of this great man's conduct (for 
a great man he must be in the musical world, whatever 


misfortunes may now, too late, say to the contrary), I 
wish I could persuade them, I say, to take him back into 
favour, and relieve him from the cruel persecution of 
those little vermin, who, taking advantage of their dis- 
pleasure, pull down even his bills as fast as he has put 
them up, and use a thousand other little acts to injure and 
distress him." 

What Handel thought — and probably said — of a 
begging letter of this kind can be better imagined than 
described. Nothing was farther from his thoughts than 
apologies or concession. He had given his best to 
England, and England would have none of it. But he 
had another string to his bow. In the hour of his defeat 
he bethought him of the sister isle, whence warm invita- 
tions from many good friends had often reached him. 
The people of his choice would have none of him, and he 
turned in despair to the Gentiles. He shook the dust of 
London from his feet, and prepared for a visit to Dublin. 


WILLIAM CAVENDISH, fourth Duke of Devon- 
shire and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was one 
of those amiable and accomplished peers immortalised by 
the muse of Sir William Gilbert, who spend their existence 
in doing nothing in particular and doing it very well. 
His sole claim to immortality rests upon the fact that 
he invited Handel to Dublin. The rest of his blameless 
and respectable career has faded into the shadows of the 
past. His Lord Lieutenancy seems on the whole to have 
been a success. He was rich, and spent his money 
generously. He built a quay in Dublin and beautified 
the city in other ways. It probably did not lie within his 
power to do much towards ameliorating the lot of the 
deeply injured and suffering people whom he ruled — the 
Home Government kept too tight a hand upon him for 
that. As to his private life, his obsequious biographer 
records with proper enthusiasm that " he generally con- 
versed with his friends and neighbours with that cheerful- 
ness and condescension, that bespoke the truly great 
man " ; but a pleasanter idea of what the man really was 
is given in a story of Sir Robert Walpole's brother 
Horatio, who, when asked what he thought of Devonshire 

House, replied: "Why, I think it something like the 

1 60 


master ; plain and good without, but one of the best 
inside houses in Britain." '^ Whatever were his faults or 
virtues, the Duke appreciated Handel, and it was in 
response to a definite invitation from Dublin Castle that 
Handel started for John Bull's other island. 

He left London during the first week of November 
1 741, carrying with him his completed Messiah, which he 
had begun on the 22nd of August and finished on the 
14th of September. Burney, as a boy of fifteen, saw him 
at Chester, and his story, though it has often been quoted 
before, is too good to be omitted : — 

"When Handel went through Chester on his way to 
Ireland in the year 1741, I was at the public school in 
that city and very well remember seeing him smoke a 
pipe over a dish of coffee at the Exchange Coffee-House ; 
for, being extremely anxious to see so extraordinary a 
man, I watched him narrowly as long as he remained in 
Chester ; which, on account of the wind being unfavourable 
for his embarking at Parkgate, was several days. During 
this time he applied to Mr. Baker the organist, my first 
music master, to know whether there were any choirmen 
in the Cathedral who could sing at sight, as he wished to 
prove some books that had been hastily transcribed by 
trying the choruses which he intended to perform in 
Ireland. Mr. Baker mentioned some of the most likely 
singers then in Chester, and among the rest a printer of 
the name of Janson, who had a good bass voice and was 
one of the best musicians in the choir. A time was fixed 
for the private rehearsal at the Golden Falcon, where 
Handel was quartered ; but alas ! on trial of the chorus in 
The Messiah^ 'And with His stripes we are healed,' poor 
Janson, after repeated attempts, failed so egregiously that 

1 Grove, Lives of the Dukes of Devonshire, 1 764. 


Handel let loose his great bear upon him, and, after 
swearing in four or five different languages, cried out in 
broken English : ' You scoundrel, did you not tell me 
that you could sing at sight ? ' 

" ' Yes, sir,' says the printer, ' and so I can, but not at 
first sight.' " 

The contrary winds still continuing, Handel left 
Chester and proceeded to Holyhead, whence he contrived 
at last to cross to Dublin. He arrived at his destination 
on the 1 8th of November,^ and established himself in 
a house in Abbey Street. His company of singers and 
players soon began to assemble. Maclaine, the organist, 
he had brought with him. Signora Avolio arrived on the 
24th. Mrs. Gibber was already in Dublin, where for some 
time past she had been turning everybody's head as Polly 
Peachum in The Beggar s Opera. His old friend Dubourg 
the violinist was already established in Dublin. Handel 
opened his season on the 23rd of December with a 
performance of V Allegro, II Penseroso ed il Moderato, 
together with the usual allowance of concertos, given in 
the recently built hall in Fishamble Street.^ A report of 

^"Last Wednesday the celebrated Dr, Handel arrived here in the 
Packet Boat from Holyhead, a Gentleman universally known by his excellent 
Compositions in all kinds of Musick, and particularly for his Te Deum, 
Jubilate, Anthems, and other compositions in Church Musick (of which for 
some years past have principally consisted the Entertainments in the Round 
Church, which have so greatly contributed to support the Charity of Mercer's 
Hospital), to perform his Oratorios, for which purpose he hath engaged the 
above Mr. Maclaine (mentioned in the preceding paragraph) his Wife and 
several others of the best performers in the Musical Way." Faulkner s 
Journal, 2ist November 1741. 

^ Fishamble Street is situated in a quarter which, though now fallen from 
its high estate, was at that time highly fashionable. Neal's Music Hall was 
first opened to the public on 2nd October 1741. Many years afterwards it was 
converted into a theatre. In 1850 it was, according to Rockstro, " a neglected 
old building with a wooden porch." It has now totally disappeared. 


the proceedings only appeared in Faulkner s Jo7irnal\ 
" Last Wednesday, Mr. Handel had his first oratorio at 
Mr. Neal's Musick Hall in Fishamble Street, which was 
crowded with a more numerous and polite audience than 
ever was seen upon the like occasion. The performance 
was superior to anything of the kind in the kingdom 
before, and our nobility and gentry, to shew their taste 
for all kinds of genius, expressed their great satisfaction 
and have already given all imaginable encouragement to 
this grand musick." Handel's satisfaction equalled that 
of his audience, and a few days later he wrote in high 
spirits to Jennens : — 

Dublin, 2gih Dece?iiber i^^i 
" S"^- — It was with the greatest Pleasure I saw the 
Continuation of your kindness by the Lines you was 
pleased to send me, in order to be prefix'd to your 
Oratorio Messiah, which I set to Musick before I left 
England. I am emboldened, Sir, by the generous 
Concern you please to take in relation to my affairs, to 
give you an account of the Success I have met here. The 
Nobility did me the honour to make amongst themselves 
a Subscription for 6 Nights, which did fill a Room of 
600 Persons, so that I needed not to sell one single ticket 
at the Door, and without Vanity the Performance was 
received with a general Approbation. Sig"- Avolio, which 
I brought with me from London, pleases extraordinary. 
I have found another Tenor Voice which gives great 
Satisfaction, the Basses and Counter Tenors are very 
good, and the rest of the Chorus Singers (by my Direction) 
do exceedingly well. As for the Instruments they are 
really excellent, Mr. Dubourgh being at the Head of them, 
and the Musick sounds delightfully in this charming 
Room, which puts me in good Spirits (and my Health 

1 64 HANDEL 

being so good) that I exert myself on my Organ with 
more than usual success. 

" I open'd with the Allegro, Penseroso, and Moderato, 
and I assure you that the words of the Moderato are vastly 
admired. The Audience being composed (besides the 
Flower of Ladies of Distinction and other People of the 
greatest Quality) of so many Bishops, Deans, Heads of 
the Colledge, the most eminent People in the Law, as the 
Chancellor, Auditor General, etc. etc., all which are very 
much taken with the Poetry, so that I am desired to 
perform it again the next time. I cannot sufficiently 
express the kind treatment I receive here, but the Polite- 
ness of this generous Nation cannot be unknown to you, 
so I let you judge of the satisfaction I enjoy, passing my 
time with honour, profit and pleasure. They propose 
already to have some more performances, when the 6 
nights of the Subscription are over, and my Lord Duke 
the Lord Lieutenant (who is always present with all his 
Family on those Nights) will easily obtain a longer Per- 
mission for me by His Majesty, so that I shall be obliged 
to make my stay here longer than I thought. One request 
I must make to you, which is that you would insinuate my 
most devoted Respects to my Lord and my Lady Shaftes- 
bury ; you know how much their kind protection is precious 
to me. Sir William Knatchbull will find here my respect- 
ful Compliments. You will increase my Obligations if by 
occasion you will present my humble service to some 
other Patrons and friends of mine. I expect with im- 
patience the Favour of your News concerning your Health 
and Welfare, of which I take a real share. As for the 
news of your Operas I need not trouble you, for all the 
Town is full of their ill success by a number of Letters from 
your quarters to the People of Quality here, and I can't 


help saying but that it furnishes great Diversion and 

" The first Opera ^ I heard myself before I left London, 
and it made me very merry all along my journey, and of 
the second Opera, called Penelope^ a certain nobleman 
writes very jocosely, ' II faut que je dise avec Harlequin, 
notre Penelope n'est qu' une Sallope,' but I think I have 
trespassed too much on your Patience. 

" I beg you to be persuaded of the sincere veneration 
and esteem with which I have the Honour to be. Sir, 
your most obliged and most humble servant, 

" George Frideric Handel " 

All through the winter Handel continued to give 
concerts at regular intervals, the original six subscription 
concerts being followed by six others. His repertory, 
besides L Allegro, included Alexanders Feast, the St. 
Cecilia Ode, Esther, and Hymen, the latter a revised 
version of the opera Imeneo, described as a " new serenata." 
The Lord Lieutenant left for London on the i6th of 
February, but Handel was now firmly established in the 
good graces of Dublin society, and needed no court 
patronage to ensure the acceptance of his works. 

On the 27th of March 1742 the following notice 
appeared in Faulkner's Journal: " For Relief of the 
Prisoners in the several Gaols, and for the Support of 
Mercer's Hospital in Stephen's Street, and of the 
Charitable Infirmary on the Inn's Quay, on Monday the 
1 2th of April will be performed at the Musick Hall in 

^ Akssandro in Persia, a pasticcio, produced October 31. The opera 
season at the King's Theatre was now managed by the Earl of Middlesex 
with Galuppi as musical director. 

^ By Galuppi. 

1 66 HANDEL 

Fishamble Street, Mr. Handel's new Grand Oratorio, 
called The Messiah, in which the Gentlemen of the Choirs 
of both Cathedrals will assist, with some Concertos on the 
Organ, by Mr. Handell. Tickets to be had at the Musick 
Hall, and at Mr. Neal's in Christ Church-yard at half a 
Guinea each. N.B. — No person will be admitted to the 
Rehearsal without a Rehearsal ticket, which will be given 
gratis with the Ticket for the Performance when payed for." 

The rehearsal duly took place on the 8th, and was 
thus recorded by Faulkner s Journal: — 

" Yesterday Mr. Handel's new Grand Sacred Oratorio, 
called The Messiah, was rehearsed at the Musick Hall in 
Fishamble Street to a most Grand, Polite, and Crowded 
Audience ; and was performed so well, that it gave 
universal Satisfaction to all present ; and was allowed by 
the greatest Judges to be the finest Composition of 
Musick that ever was heard, and the sacred Words as 
properly adapted for the occasion. 

" N.B. — At the desire of several persons of Distinction, 
the above Performance is put off to Tuesday next. The 
doors will be opened at Eleven, and the Performance 
begin at Twelve. Many Ladies and Gentlemen who are 
well-wishers to this Noble and Grand Charity, for which 
this Oratorio was composed, request it as a favour, that the 
Ladies who honour this performance with their Presence, 
would be pleased to come without Hoops, as it will greatly 
encrease the Charity, by making Room for more company." 

A further advertisement published on the morning of 
the performance entreated gentlemen to come without 
their swords for the same reason. 

On Tuesday, the 13th of April 1742, the first perform- 
ance of The Messiah took place. On the ensuing Saturday 
the following report appeared in Faulkner s J ourfial: — 


" On Tuesday last Mr. Handel's Sacred Grand Oratorio' 
The Messiah, was performed in the New Musick Hall in 
Fishamble Street ; the best Judges allowed it to be the 
most finished piece of Musick. Words are wanting to 
express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring 
crowded Audience, The Sublime, the Grand, and the 
Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and mov- 
ing Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished 
Heart and Ear, It is but Justice to Mr, Handel that the 
World should know he generously gave the Money arising 
from this Grand Performance, to be equally shared by the 
Society for relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary, 
and Mercer's Hospital, for which they will ever gratefully 
remember his Name ; and that the Gentlemen of the two 
Choirs, Mr, Dubourg, Mrs. Avolio and Mrs. Cibber, who 
all performed their Parts to Admiration, acted also on the 
same disinterested Principle, satisfied with the deserved 
Applause of the Publick, and the conscious Pleasure of 
promoting such useful and extensive Charity, There 
were above 700 People in the Room, and the Sum collected 
for that Noble and Pious Charity amounted to about 
^400, out of which £12^ goes to each of the three great 
and pious Charities." 

The only other contemporary account of the first 
performance of TJie Messiah with which I am acquainted 
was furnished to Burney by an Irish doctor named Ouin, 
who was living in Dublin during Handel's visit. Of 
Handel he wrote : — 

" He was received in that kingdom by people of the 
first distinction with all possible marks of esteem as a 
man, and admiration as a performer and composer of the 
highest order. TJie Messiah, I am thoroughly convinced, 
was performed in Dublin for the first time, and with the 

1 68 HANDEL 

greatest applause.^ Mrs. Gibber and Signora AvoHo were 
the principal performers. These, with the assistance of 
the choristers of St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church, 
formed the vocal band ; and Dubourg, with several good 
instrumental performers, composed a very respectable 
orchestra. There were many noble families here, with 
whom Mr. Handel lived in the utmost degree of friendship 
and familiarity. Mrs. Vernon, a German lady who came 
over with King George I, was particularly intimate with 
him, and at her house I had the pleasure of seeing and 
conversing with Mr. Handel, who, with his other ex- 
cellences, was possessed of a great stock of humour ; no 
man ever told a story with more. But it was requisite 
for the hearer to have a competent knowledge of at least 
four languages, English, French, Italian and German, for 
in his narratives he made use of them all." 

In spite of these records some uncertainty still exists 
as to the singers who took part in the first performance 
of The Messiah, and the mystery has by no means been 
dispelled by the discovery in 1891 of the only known 
copy of the original word-book of the oratorio, with the 
names of the singers written in pencil by the side of 
the songs that they sang. One interesting point, at 
any rate, is made clear by this document — the identity 
of the male soloists, whom Dr. Quin declares to have 
been taken from the choirs of the two cathedrals. 
They were James Baily (tenor), William Lambe and 
Joseph Ward (altos), John Hill and John Mason (basses). 
The first four belonged to the choirs of both cathedrals, 
but Mason was a Vicar Choral of Christ Church alone. 

^ In Burney's time there was some uncertainty, now completely dispelled, 
as to whether The Messiah had not been performed in London during the 
previous year. 


With regard to the female soloists, the word-book raises 
difficulties rather than settles them. Dr. Quin and 
Faulkner s Journal agree in saying that Signora Avolio 
and Mrs. Gibber took part in the performance, but in the 
word-book not only is there no mention of Signora Avolio, 
but against several of the soprano numbers the name 
" McLean " is pencilled, referring presumably to the wife 
of Maclaine the organist, who is known to have accom- 
panied her husband to Ireland. It is true that " McLean " 
does not seem to have sung all the soprano solos. Her 
name is only written against the recitatives " There were 
shepherds," "Thy rebuke hath broken His heart," and 
the air, " I know that my Redeemer liveth," so that it is 
possible that Signora Avolio may have sung " Rejoice 
greatly," "Come unto Him,"^ and "How beautiful are 
the feet," against which no name is pencilled in the word- 

It is possible, of course, that the notes in this word- 
book may refer to the second performance of TJie Messiah 
on the 3rd of June, not to the first at all, and this theory is 
supported by the fact that the printer seems accidentally 
to have omitted the recitative, "Unto which of the 
angels," and a slip of paper containing the words of the 
omitted number and of the following chorus has been 
pasted into its right place. No record of this performance 

^ We already knew from the Dublin MS. that at the first performance of The 
Messiah the air " He shall feed his flock " was, as is now customary, divided 
between the contralto and the soprano, not, as in the autograph, given to the 
soprano alone. This is confirmed by the word-book, in which Mrs. Gibber's 
name is written against the opening words of the song. Mrs. Gibber also 
sang " If God be for us," presumably in a transposed edition, and " He was 
despised." With reference to her singing of the latter air there is a tradition 
that Dr. Delany, who was present at the first performance, was so much 
affected that he cried aloud : " Woman, for this thy sins be forgiven thee." 


has survived, and it is legitimate therefore to suppose that 
at the first performance Signora Avolio found her part 
too heavy, and at the second arranged to share the soprano 
solos with Mrs. Maclaine. But the evidence of the word- 
book must not be taken too seriously. The pencil notes 
were doubtless hastily jotted down, and may very likely 
be inaccurate ; indeed the attribution of the tenor air, " Thou 
shalt break them," to the alto Lambe seems almost im- 

The incidents of Handel's stay in Dublin after the 
production of TJie Messiah may be briefly summed up. 
Saul was performed on the 25th of May, and The Messiah 
repeated on the 3rd of June. This was the last of Handel's 
own performances, though he probably took part in 
Signora A volio's benefit concert on the 1 6th of July, and 
in Mrs. Arne's concert on the 21st of July, at which a 
great deal of his music was performed. 

It was doubtless at one or other of these entertain- 
ments that the incident occurred which was mentioned 
by Burney as an instance of Handel's quickness of wit. 
" One night," he writes, " when Handel was in Dublin, 
Dubourg (a well-known violin player of that time) having 
a solo part in a song and a close ^ to make ad libitum, he 
wandered about in different keys a good while, and seemed 
indeed a little bewildered and uncertain of his original 
key ; but at length coming to the shake which was to 
terminate this long close, Handel to the great delight of 
the audience cried out loud enough to be heard in the 
most remote parts of the theatre, " You are welcome 
home, Mr. Dubourg."^ 

Handel left Dublin on the 13th of August and returned 

^ We should now call it a cadenza. 
^ Burney, Cotnmetnoration. 


to London, whence on the 9th of September he addressed 
the following letter to his friend Jennens : — 

" Dear S""' — It was indeed your humble Servant 
which intended you a Visit on my way from Ireland to 
London, for I certainly would have given you a better 
account by word of Mouth, as by writing, how well your 
Messiah was received in that country, yet as a Noble 
Lord and not less than the Bishop of Elphin ^ (a Noble- 
man very learned in Musick) has given his Observations 
in writing on this Oratorio, I send you here annexed the 
contents of it in his own words. I shall send the printed 
Book of TJie Messiah to Mr. J. Steel for you. 

" As for my success in general in that generous and 
polite Nation, I reserve the account of it till I have the 
honour to see you in London. The report that the 
Direction of the Opera next winter is committed to my 
care, is groundless. The gentlemen who have undertaken 
to meddle with Harmony cannot agree, and are quite in a 
confusion. Whether I shall do something in the Oratorio 
way (as several of my friends desire) I cannot determine 
as yet. Certain it is, that this time 12-month I shall 
continue my Oratorios in Ireland, where they are going to 
make a large subscription already for that purpose. 

" If I had known that my Lord Guernsey ^ was so near 
when I passed Coventry, you may easily imagine. Sir, 
that I should not have neglected of paying my Respects 
to him, since you know the particular Esteem I have for 

^ Edward Synge, a prelate who enjoyed the probably unique advantage of 
being the son of an archbishop, and the grandson, great-nephew, and brother 
of bishops. 

- Afterwards the Earl of Aylesford, a relative of Jennens, to whom he 
bequeathed his books and pictures. 


his Lordship. I think it a very long time to the month 
of November next, when I can have some hopes of seeing 
you here in Town. Pray let me hear meanwhile of your 
Health and Welfare, of which I take a real share, being 
with an uncommon Sincerity and Respect, S""", your most 
obliged humble servant, 

" George Frideric Handel " 

In spite of his promise, Handel never revisited Ireland. 
How it happened that what seems to have been a settled 
arrangement was thrown over is not known. Possibly the 
subscription was not after all taken up with the enthusiasm 
that was expected, or he may have thought that the 
future looked more promising in London. At any rate 
his Irish visit remains a unique episode in his career, a 
moment of brilliant sunshine in the midst of gathering 
clouds and threatening storms, on which he must have 
often looked back with vain regret in the troublous times 
that were soon to come. 


WHEN Handel returned to London he found his 
position materially improved. His triumphs 
abroad had won him consideration at home. His flight 
to Ireland had been sung by no less celebrated a bard 
than Pope. Pope knew little and cared less about music, 
but he was under no illusions as to his ignorance, and 
was content to accept the opinion of an expert. He asked 
his friend Arbuthnot what was Handel's real value as a 
musician. " Conceive the highest that you can of his 
ability," replied the doctor, " and they are much beyond 
anything that you can conceive." Pope laid the words to 
heart, and a scathing passage in the Dunciad pilloried 
Handel's enemies for all time. The genius of Italian 
opera, " by singing Peers upheld on either hand," is 
pleading her cause before the throne of Dulness : — 

" "'But soon, ah soon, Rebellion will commence 
If Music meanly borrows aid from sense. 
Strong in new arms, lo ! Giant Handel stands 
Like bold Briareus with a hundred hands ; ^ 
To stir, to rouse, to shake the soul he comes, 
And Jove's own Thunders follow Mars's Drums, 

Arrest him, Empress, or you sleep no more ' 

She heard, and drove him to the Hibernian shore." 

^ A note of Pope's own explains the pun in this passage, which has 
sometimes been misinterpreted. "Mr. Handel," he says, " had introduced 

1 74 HANDEL 

Handel came back with a new oratorio, Samson, in 
his pocket, which he had written, all save the concluding 
air and chorus, immediately after The Messiah in 
September and October 1741. In October 1742 he put 
the finishing touch to it, but it was not produced until the 
17th of February 1743. The libretto was by Newburgh 
Hamilton, who, in his dedication to the Prince of Wales, 
makes an interesting reference to the odious persecution 
which Handel still had to endure from a certain set 
among the aristocracy : "As we have so great a genius 
amongst us, it is a pity that so many mean artifices have 
been lately used to blast all his endeavours, and in him 
ruin the art itself; but he has the satisfaction of being 
encouraged by all true lovers and real judges of musick ; 
in a more especial manner by that illustrious person, 
whose high rank only serves to make his knowledge in 
all arts and sciences as conspicuous as his power and 
inclination to patronize them." 

Samson was from the first one of the most popular of 
Handel's oratorios. Even Horace Walpole, who made 
fun of everything and everybody, had to own that it was 
a success. 

A few days after the first performance he wrote :— 

" Handel has set up an Oratorio against the Opera, and 
succeeds. He has hired all the goddesses from the 
farces, and the singers of ' Roast Beef from between the 
acts at both theatres, with a man with one note in his 
voice, and a girl without ever an one, and so they sing 
and make brave hallelujahs, and the good company 

a great number of hands and more variety of instruments into the orchestra, 
and employed even drums and cannons to make a fuller chorus ; which 
proved so much too manly for the fine gentlemen of his age that he was 
obliged to remove his music into Ireland." 


encore the recitative, if it happens to have any cadence 
like what they call a tune." 

Walpole's criticisms on Handel's singers were to a 
certain extent justified. The girl without a note was 
evidently Mrs. Gibber, whose voice Burney, one of her 
great admirers, had to admit was " a mere thread," while 
even so enthusiastic a Handelian as Mrs. Delany 
confessed that Beard (the man with one note) had " no 
voice at all." ^ Beard, however, was not only a first-rate 
artist, but a man of real culture and refinement, besides 
being totally without the vanity to which tenors are 
usually supposed to have a prescriptive right. Miss 
Hawkins says of him : " His lowly appreciation of 
himself — only one of his many virtues ! — was shown when 
in hearing Harrison, at one of the grand commemorations 
of Handel, then in fine voice sing ' Oft on a plat,' he said 
to my father, who happened to sit next to him, ' I never 
sang it half so well.'"^ His marriage to Lady Henrietta 
Herbert a few years before had been a nine days' wonder 
in the fashionable world. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 
wrote wickedly about it to a friend : " Lady Harriet 
Herbert furnished the tea-tables here with fresh tattle for 
the last fortnight. I was one of the first who was in- 
formed of her adventure by Lady Gage, who was told that 
morning by a priest, that she had desired him to marry 
her the next day to Beard, who sings in the farces at 
Drury Lane. He refused her that good office, and 
immediately told Lady Gage, who (having been un- 
fortunate in her friends) was frightened at this affair, and 
asked my advice. I told her honestly, that since the 
lady was capable of such amours, I did not doubt if this 
was broke off she would bestow her person and fortune 
^ Correspondence, ii. 271. ^ Anecdotes^ 1822. 


on some hackney-coachman or chairman ; and that I 
really saw no method of saving her from ruin, and her 
family from dishonour but by poisoning her ; and offered 
to be at the expense of the arsenic, and even to administer 
it with my own hands, if she would invite her to drink 
tea with her that evening. But on her not approving 
that method, she sent to Lady. Montacute, Mrs. Durich, 
and all the relations within reach of messengers. They 
carried Lady Harriet to Twickenham, though I told them 
it was a bad air for girls.^ She is since returned to 
London, and some people believe her married ; others, 
that she is too much intimidated by Mr. Waldegrave's 
threat to dare to go through this ceremony; but the 
secret is now public, and in what manner it will conclude 
I know not. Her relations have certainly no reason to 
be amazed at her constitution, but are violently surprised 
at the mixture of devotion that forces her to have recourse 
to the church in her necessities, which had not been the 
road taken by the matrons of her family." Lady 
Henrietta, in spite of the objurgations of her family, 
lived happily with Beard until 1753. After her death he 
married a daughter of Rich, the famous Harlequin and 
theatrical manager. 

Meanwhile, Samson pursued its successful career. 
" The Oratorios thrive abundantly," wrote Horace 
Walpole ; " for my part they give me an idea of Heaven, 
where everybody is to sing, whether they have voices or 
not." Miss Catherine Talbot, the adopted daughter of 
Dr. Seeker, Archbishop of Canterbury, and one of the 
famous "Blue Stocking" gang, took it much more 
seriously. " I heard Samson in one of the College Halls," 
she wrote from Oxford to her friend Elizabeth Carter, 

^ Because Pope, her quondam admirer and inveterate enemy, lived there. 


" and I believe to the full as finely as it ever was in town. 
I really cannot help thinking this kind of entertainment 
must necessarily have some effect in correcting the levity 
of the age ; and let an audience be ever so thoughtless, 
they can scarcely come away, I should think, without 
being the better for an evening so spent." ^ 

Samson was followed in due course by The Messiah^ 
the first London performance of which took place on the 
23rd of March 1743. It was then and for some years 
afterwards described merely as " a sacred oratorio," 
doubtless because Handel's enemies, who lost no chance 
of doing him a bad turn, would have raised hypocritical 
protests against the blasphemy of allowing the name 
of Messiah to appear on a playbill. No notice of The 
Messiah appeared in any London paper, but an anecdote 
relating to the first performance has survived in the 
correspondence of Dr. Beattie. " When Handel's Messiah 
was first performed," he says, "the audience was ex- 
ceedingly struck and affected by the music in general, 
but when the chorus struck up ' For the Lord God 
Omnipotent ' in the Alleluia, they were so transported 
that they all together, with the King (who happened to be 
present), started up and remained standing till the 
chorus ended. This anecdote I had from Lord Kinnoull." 
The Messiah does not at first seem to have pleased the 
taste of London musicians. " Partly," according to Lord 
Shaftesbury, "from the scruples some persons^ had 
entertained against carrying on such a performance in a 
Play-House, and partly for not entering into the genius 

^ Carter Correspondence, 1 808, vol. i. p. 29. 

'^ Miss Catherine Talbot was one of these. Writing to her friend Mrs. 
Carter of a performance of The Messiah, she said : "To be sure the play- 
house is an unfit place for such a solemn performance." 


of the composition, this capital composition was but 
indifferently relished," It was given only thrice during 
the season of 1743, while Samson was given eight times. 
Even Jennens, who ought to have known better, chose 
to find fault with it. " I shall shew you," he wrote to a 
friend, " a collection I gave Handel, call'd Messiah, which 
I value highly. He has made a fine entertainment of it, 
though not near so good as he might and ought to have 
done. I have with great difficulty made him correct 
some of the grossest faults in the composition, but he 
retained his overture obstinately, in which there are some 
passages far unworthy of Handel, but much more un- 
worthy of The Messiah" Whatever the cause may have 
been, The Messiah was certainly slow in finding its way to 
popularity. During its first London season it was only 
given three times, as we have seen. In 1744 it was not 
performed at all, and only twice in 1745. After that it 
seems to have lain upon the shelf until 1749. 

But England summoned Handel once more from his 
oratorios to celebrate her triumphs in the field. The war 
of" Jenkins's ear " had dragged on for some years without 
producing any incident that touched popular imagination. 
Englishmen hardly troubled to follow the devious mazes 
of foreign politics, and many honest citizens would have 
found it difficult to explain how it came about that after 
going to war with Spain to avenge Jenkins we found 
ourselves protecting Maria Theresa against the united 
forces of France and Prussia. But the victory of 
Dettingen in June 1743 gave the country something 
tangible to boast about. The idea of an English king 
leading his forces in person against our traditional 
enemies, and inflicting a sound beating upon them, was 
one that nobody could resist. George ll's unpopularity 


was forgotten, and he became for the moment the national 
hero. With all his faults, he undoubtedly had personal 
courage, and the picture of him alighting from his unruly 
horse, and trusting to his own stout little legs, "which," 
as he said, "he knew would not run away with him," 
appealed irresistibly to English sentiment. So a national 
thanksgiving for the victory of Dettingen was decreed, 
and Handel, in his capacity of " Composer of Music to 
the Chapel Royal," wrote a Te Deum and an Anthem for 
it, which were duly performed at the Chapel Royal on 
the 27th of November. Both works met with general 
approbation. A newspaper of the period spoke of them 
as " so truly masterly and sublime, as well as new in their 
kind, that they prove this great genius not only inex- 
haustible, but likewise still rising to a higher degree of 
perfection." ^ 

Mrs. Delany, after attending a rehearsal of the Te 
Deuni, wrote enthusiastically to her brother : " It is 
excessively fine ; I was all raptures and so was your friend 
D[octor] D[elany], as you may imagine. Everybody says 
it is the finest of Handel's compositions. I am not well 
enough acquainted with it to pronounce that of it, but it 
is heavenly." 

For the Lenten season of 1744 Handel had a pleasant 
surprise for his subscribers in the shape of a secular 
oratorio, Semele, a return to the manner of his early 
triumph, Acis and Galatea. Handel certainly did all that 
he could to conciliate lovers of every sort of music, but 
the opposition against him and his music was still 
stubborn and powerful. Mrs. Delany,^ writing after the 
first performance of Seinele^ observes significantly : " There 

1 Quoted by Faulkner's Journal, 26th November 1743. 
^ Delany, Correspondence, vol. ii. 


was no disturbance at the play-house," as though a chorus 
of cat-calls might reasonably be expected at the pro- 
duction of a new oratorio. 

She goes on : " The Goths were not so very absurd 
as to declare in a public manner their disapprobation of 
such a composer." But "the Goths," though they had 
the grace to refrain from open manifestations of hostility, 
were none the less determined to ruin Handel, whose 
concerts they looked upon as threatening danger to their 
favourite amusement of Italian opera. Ten days later 
Mrs. Delany returns to the subject: — 

" Semele has a strong party against it, viz., the fine 
ladies, the pet its maitres and ignoramus's. All the opera 
people are enraged at Handel, but Lady Cobham, Lady 
Westmorland, and Lady Chesterfield never fail it." 
Another who never failed to put in an appearance at 
Handel's concerts was King George II, who remained 
faithful to his favourite composer when his oratorios were 
deserted by court and society. 

A famous mot of Lord Chesterfield's relates to this 
period of Handel's career. " What, my Lord," said some 
one to him, as he was coming out of Covent Garden one 
evening in the middle of the performance ; " are you dis- 
missed ? Is there not an oratorio?" " Yes," replied he, 
" they are now performing, but I thought it best to retire, 
lest I should disturb the King in his privacies." The 
Prince of Wales was also a good friend to Handel at this 
time. He had, as we have seen, accepted the dedication 
of Samson, and he had long since forgotten the old 
squabbles about Bononcini and Senesino. It is true that 
Mrs. Delany refers to a quarrel between Handel and the 
Prince early in 1744, but from what she says Handel 
appears to have treated the affair as a joke. Handel used 


to hold many of the rehearsals for his oratorios at Carlton 
House, where the Prince had been established since 1732, 
and inside the walls of the music-room he behaved like a 
veritable dictator. Burney, who knew Handel well in his 
later years, says that if the Prince and Princess were not 
up to time in coming to a rehearsal, Handel was apt to 
become violent, whereupon the Prince, who must have 
been good-nature itself, used to confess himself in the 
wrong, and add that it was a shame to have kept these 
good people, meaning the performers, so long from their 
pupils and other concerns. Handel at rehearsal must 
have been a decidedly awe-inspiring person. If a 
maid of honour or any other female attendant talked 
while the music was going on, she rendered herself liable 
to a dose of Handel's most vigorous vernacular. Then 
the Princess of Wales, with her accustomed mildness and 
benignity, would smooth things over by saying : " Hush, 
hush ! Handel is in a passion." At the performances in 
the theatre he was more terrific still. He had a way of 
shouting " Chorus ! " at the close of an air, which Burney 
describes as extremely formidable. He used to wear an 
enormous white wig — the sort of wig that Edward Fitz- 
Gerald described as "a fugue in itself" — which his friends 
regarded as a kind of weather-glass indicative of the rise 
and fall of his stormy temperament. When things went 
well it had a certain nod or vibration which manifested 
his satisfaction, but without this outward and visible sign 
the initiated gathered that the composer was ill pleased 
with the performance, and looked out for squalls ac- 

Semele was followed on the 2nd of March 1744 by 
Joseph and his Brethren, a work now entirely neglected, 
the libretto of which was written by the Reverend James 

1 82 HANDEL 

Miller, who dedicated it to the Duke of Montagu, a proof, 
let us hope, that that effervescent nobleman had given up 
his taste for practical joking as middle age approached, 
and had begun to take life more seriously. 

Joseph seems to have been born under an unlucky star. 
At the final rehearsals, according to Mrs. Delany, " Handel 
was mightily out of humour about it, for Sullivan, who is 
to sing Joseph, is a block with a very fine voice, and Beard 
has 710 voice at all. The part which Francesina is to have 
(Joseph's wife) will not admit of much variety, but I hope 
it will be well received." Joseph did not, unfortunately, 
fulfil expectations, and the season closed in disappoint- 
ment. Handel devoted the following summer to the 
composition of Belshazzar, the libretto of which was 
furnished to him by his friend Jennens. Jennen's muse 
was a lady of invincible prolixity, and Handel's utmost 
efforts could do little to stem the torrent of her eloquence. 
Several of Handel's letters to Jennens of this period are 
extant, dealing principally with the new oratorio. " Your 
most excellent oratorio has given me great delight in 
setting it to musick," he writes at one time, "and still 
engages me warmly. It is indeed a noble piece, very 
grand and uncommon. It has furnished me with expres- 
sions, and has given me opportunity to some very par- 
ticular ideas, besides so many great choruses." 

A little later the burden of Jennens's verbosity weighs 
upon him more heavily : " I think it a very fine and 
sublime oratorio, only it is really too long; if I should 
extend the music, it would last four hours and more. I 
retrenched already a great deal of musick, that I might 
preserve the poetry as much as I could, yet still it may be 
shortened." Jennens was obstinate as well as wordy, 
and, like Mr Puff in The Critic, he determined to print 


every word of it. When, therefore, the word-book of the 
oratorio was published, Jennens's rich fancies appeared in 
all their pristine and unshorn luxuriance, but a sinister 
black line in the margin indicated the passages, amount- 
ing in all to some two hundred lines, which the composer 
had not found it convenient to use. No wonder that 
Jennens was Handel's severest critic, and bewailed the 
base uses to which his "fine entertainment" had been 

The collapse of the opera, which since Handel had 
retired from management in 1741 had been carried on by 
Lord Middlesex, seemed to leave the field open, and 
Handel now gave up Covent Garden and returned to his 
old quarters in the Haymarket, where he started a new 
series of subscription concerts in November 1744, on a 
more ambitious scale than ever. But if he imagined that 
it was going to be all plain sailing for him, now that the 
rivalry of the opera had ceased, he was grievously mis- 
taken. The failure of their favourite entertainment only 
made his enemies more rabid than ever. It is difficult to 
comprehend the virulence of the feeling against Handel 
that raged at this time in aristocratic circles. The old 
quarrel about Senesino can have had very little to do 
with it, since many of Handel's persecutors were hardly 
more than children in those early days. Nor can the 
quarrel have turned on the nature and quality of Handel's 
own music ; for very few of the opposition could tell a 
crotchet from a quaver. The matter was purely personal. 
Handel was an incarnation of the spirit of revolt against 
the old system of patronage that had ruled the world of 
music for so long. Here was a man who, while every 
other musician in the land remained at an angle of forty- 
five degrees in the presence of his princely patrons, 

1 84 HANDEL 

resolutely stood upright, went his own way, and snapped 
his fingers in their ducal faces. What was to be done 
with him? They had made him a bankrupt once — and 
he had paid his debts to the uttermost farthing. They 
had hounded him almost into his grave — and here he was 
as strong and hearty as ever. But this time they vowed 
one and all that there should be an end of him. It was 
time that he should be taught his place. Was a mere 
musician, a man who ought by rights to be a liveried 
flunkey in the servants' hall — as Haydn a few years later 
actually was — to defy the bluest blood in England? 
Perish the thought ! So the chosen leaders of the English 
aristocracy laid their heads together, and devised a regular 
campaign against the insufferable upstart. Women, ever 
to the front when good works are afoot, led the crusade. 
A certain Lady Brown,^ not otherwise known to history, 
is damned to everlasting fame by Burney as having 
" distinguished herself as a persevering enemy of Handel." 
She and her friends carefully chose the evenings of his 
oratorios for their balls and card-parties, violating what 

^ Lady Brown belonged to the Cecil family. Her husband, Sir Robert, 
had at one time been Resident at Venice, where his wife acquired a taste for 
Italian music. On their return to London she posed as a patroness of foreign 
singers, and was one of the first London hostesses to give regular musical 
parties. Horace Walpole, writing to Mann in 1743, mentions the Sunday 
evening concerts that she was in the habit of giving, according to Burney, 
"at the risk of her windows," for the London mob in those days was nothing 
if not Sabbatarian. Her match-making propensities, and later in life her 
avarice, seem to have been a continual source of amusement to thejeutzesse 
doree of London. 

Lady Brown is also mentioned in Martinelli's correspondence as a leading 
London hostess. " Every evening," he writes, "we go to Mylady Brown's 
conversazioni, where beauteous ladies and charming cavaliers assemble in 
large numbers, and music and play and men of letters combine with a good 
supper to make up a delightful evening's entertainment." (Martinelli, Lettere 
f ami liar i.) 


was then considered the sanctity of Lent in their en- 
deavour to crush their enemy.^ If the fascinations of 
these brilliant assemblies failed they eked them out with 
mumming-shows, such as that supplied by a miserable 
wretch named Russel, whom, after he had served their 
wanton purpose, they allowed to be thrown into prison for 
the debts contracted in their service. There he lay rotting 
until his munificent patronesses subscribed the sum of five 
pounds, by means of which he was admitted to Bedlam, 
where soon afterwards he died, a raving maniac.^ 

Victory crowned their generous efforts. Handel's 
season dragged wearily and hopelessly through the 
winter. His concerts were sometimes postponed, some- 
times omitted altogether. In vain did he produce 
Hercules on the 5th of January, and Belshazzar on the 
27th of March 1745 — the one incomparably the greatest 
of his secular oratorios, the other a masterpiece entitled 
to high rank among his sacred works. Nothing would 
avail. His own friends gave but lukewarm support, and 
the strain of the ceaseless struggle seriously affected his 
health. We have a mournful glimpse of him in a letter 
of his old friend Lady Shaftesbury written to her cousin 
James Harris^ in March 1745: "My constancy to poor 

^ Hawkins, History. 

- Smollett refers to this unfortunate wretch in his satire Advice : — 
"Again shall Handel raise his laurelled brow, 
Again shall harmony with rapture glow ! 
The spells dissolve, the combination breaks, 
And rival Punch no more in terror squeaks. 
Lo, Russel falls a sacrifice to whim 
And starts amazed in Newgate from his dream, 
With trembling hands implores their promised aid 
And sees their favour like a vision fade." 

^ James Harris was the eldest of three brothers, all of them devoted to 
music, and intimate friends of Handel. James, the eldest, was the father of 

1 86 HANDEL 

Handel got the better of my indolence, and I went last 
Friday to Alexander s Feast, but it was such a melancholy 
pleasure as drew tears of sorrow to see the great though 
unhappy Handel, dejected wan and dark, sitting by, not 
playing on the harpsichord, and to think how his light 
had been spent by being overplied in music's cause. I 
was sorry, too, to find the audience so insipid and taste- 
less (I may add unkind) not to give the poor man the 
comfort of applause; but affectation and conceit cannot 
discern or attend to merit." ^ Miss Catherine Talbot 

the first Lord Malmesbury. He was nicknamed "Hermes" Harris after 
a philosophical work of that title which made some stir at the time. Dr. 
Johnson disliked him and called him "a prig, and a bad prig," but no one 
else had a word to say against him. He lived at Salisbury, where, according 
to a recent article by the present Lord yizSxiit'ahMry {The Ancestor, vol. i.), 
Handel was a constant and welcome visitor to the family mansion of the 
Harrises, and often took part in amateur concerts. Harris was a practical 
musician, and did much for the cause of music in Salisbury and its neighbour- 
hood. His son wrote of him: "The superior taste and skill which he 
possessed in music, and his extreme fondness for hearing it, led him to attend 
to its cultivation in his native place with uncommon pains and success ; 
insomuch that, under his auspices, not only the Annual Musical Festival in 
Salisbury flourished beyond most institutions of the kind, but even the 
ordinary subscription concerts were carried on by his assistance and direc- 
tions, with a spirit and effect seldom equalled out of the Metropolis." An 
extremely interesting set of the rare word-books of these concerts has recently 
been placed at my disposal by my friend Mr. Randall Davies. It is worth 
noting that in a letter recently published {Hist. MSS. Comm., Report xv. 
Appx. pt. 2.) Handel's librettist Morell mentions a performance oi Jephtha 
given at Salisbury under James Harris's direction as having been the best he 
ever heard, and the word-books testify that the concerts were carried out 
in the most complete and elaborate manner. Thomas Harris, the second 
brother, was a master in Chancery. He witnessed Handel's will and three 
of the codicils appended to it. Under a fourth and last codicil he received a 
bequest of ;^300. William, the third brother, was the parson of the family. 
He was chaplain to the Bishop of Durham, and rector of Egglescliffe in that 

^ Malmesbury Papers, vol. i. p. 2. 


joined in deploring the decadence of fashionable taste. 
No one, she complained, seemed to care for anything but 
crowded assemblies. " Friendly visits and private parties 
are things gone out of the world ; and Handel, once so 
crowded, plays to empty walls in that opera-house, where 
there used to be a constant audience as long as there were 
any dancers to be seen." She did not profess to be a 
musician, but her criticism of BelsJiazzar is admirable. 
" Unfashionable that I am, I was, I own, highly delighted 
the other night at his last oratorio. 'Tis called Belshazzar, 
the story the taking of Babylon by Cyrus ; and the music, 
in spite of all that very bad performers could do to spoil 
it, equal to anything I ever heard. There is a chorus of 
Babylonians deriding Cyrus from their walls, that has 
the best expression of scornful laughter imaginable. 
Another of the Jews, where the name Jehovah is 
introduced first with a moment's silence and then with a 
full swell of music, so solemn that I think it is the most 
striking lesson against common genteel swearing I ever 
met with." ^ Soon after this the end came. The season 
closed abruptly on the 23rd of April. Only sixteen of 
the promised twenty-four concerts had been given, but 
the performances did not cover their expenses, and 
Handel's own funds, the proceeds of his successful visit 
to Ireland, were exhausted. His health forbade further 
efforts, and once more he was declared a bankrupt. 

Already in 1743, according to Hawkins, he had had a 
slight turn of that disorder which had driven him to Aix- 
la-Chapelle,2 and the fact that he was unable to take his 
usual share in the performance of his oratorios proves 

^ Correspondence of Airs. E. Carter, vol. i. p. 59, 

^ Hawkins, History, v. 358. Horace Walpole wrote in May 1743 : 
" Handel has had a palsy, and can't compose." 

1 88 HANDEL 

plainly enough how ill he was. A few months' rest, 
however, and probably a visit to one of his favourite 
watering-places, Tunbridge Wells or Cheltenham, put 
him on his legs again. His indomitable spirit rose 
superior to every trial, and instead of giving up the 
struggle in despair he hired the Covent Garden theatre 
for the ensuing Lent. 

In a letter from William Harris to his sister-in-law, 
dated 29th August 1745, we find the composer back in 
London : " I met Mr. Handel a few days since in the 
street, and stopped and put him in mind who I was, upon 
which it would have diverted you to have seen his antic 
motions. He seemed highly pleased and was full of 
inquiry after you and the Councillor [Thomas Harris]. 
I told him I was very confident that you expected a visit 
from him this summer. He talked much of his precarious 
state of health, yet he looks well enough. I believe you 
will have him with you ere long." ^ The health-giving 
breezes of Salisbury Downs and the motherly care of 
friendly Mrs. Harris doubtless combined to expedite 
Handel's return to health, and in October Lord Shaftes- 
bury could report progress : " Poor Handel looks some- 
thing better. I hope he will entirely recover in due time, 
though he has been a good deal disordered in the head." ^ 
Recover he did, and to such purpose that his apparent 
defeat at the hands of his malignant enemies was con- 
verted into a victory, the most brilliant and lasting of his 

^ Malmesbury Papers, vol. i. p. 3. ^ Ibid. vol. i. p. 9. 

THE TURN OF THE TIDE, 1745-1751 

WHEN one fine August morning in the year 1745 
the news reached London that Prince Charles 
Edward Stuart had landed in Scotland, everybody 
laughed incredulously. People had almost forgotten 
about the Jacobites. They seemed to belong to the dim 
past of childhood, and to be the stock-in-trade of the 
elderly bores who babbled about the 'fifteen and the times 
of good Queen Anne. But the days passed by, and the 
news was confirmed. The Pretender unfurled his standard 
at Glenfinnan, and the clans gathered round him. 
London's incredulity changed to annoyance. The Scot- 
tish rising was a ridiculous piece of impertinence — why did 
not some one go out and put a stop to it? Thereupon Sir 
John Cope did go, but it needed more than his blundering 
and bewildered efforts to check the rebellion. Prince 
Charlie easily eluded him among the fastnesses of the 
Grampians, and was at the gates of Perth while Cope was 
marching upon Inverness. However, London still pre- 
served its superior attitude, and when the ministers pro- 
posed any preventive plans to the King, he merely replied, 
" Pho ! don't talk to me of that stuff." Then came 
the Prince's triumphal entry into Edinburgh, and the 
crushing defeat of Cope at Prestonpans. London began 


to get nervous. Horace Walpole admitted in a letter to 
Horace Mann that the defeat had frightened everybody, 
though the King still pooh-poohed the whole business. 
When the rebels crossed the border, fear changed to con- 
sternation. Horace Walpole called it an ugly business, 
and prided himself upon not despairing. Then followed 
the siege and capture of Carlisle, and the march south to 
Derby. With the Highlanders almost at their doors the 
citizens of London made up their minds for the worst. 
Shops were shut, and all business was suspended. 
There was a run on the Bank, and the Guards were 
marched out to Finchley. " It is beyond the power of 
words," wrote William Harris to his sister-in-law, " to de- 
scribe to you the hurry both court and city were in."^ 
All over the country the terror was the same. At King's 
Lynn they talked seriously of cutting down their bridges 
to keep out the rebels, and beaching ships to prevent the 
French from entering the harbour.^ But the alarm was 
needless. In a few days came the news of the rebels' 
retreat. London breathed a vast sigh of relief, and 
resumed the ordinary avocations of life. But while 
it lasted the alarm had been a real one, and the 
sense of having had a narrow escape was so strong in 
men's minds that it occurred to Handel to write an 
Occasional Oratoi-io celebrating the general delight at the 
country's escape from what seemed at the time a grave 
peril. The Occasional Oratorio was somewhat hastily put 
together, and Handel made free use in it of several of his 
earlier works, notably of Israel in Egypt, but it is hardly 
fair to call it a pasticcio, as many of Handel's biographers 
have done, since it contains no fewer than thirty-one 

^ Malmesbury Papers, vol. i. p. 21. 

* Edmund Pyle, Memoirs of a Royal Chaplain, p. 113. 


original numbers. It was performed for the first time 
on the 14th of February 1746, and was twice repeated, 
the performances being specially designed, according to 
Handel's advertisement, " to make good to the subscribers 
that favoured him last season the number of performances 
he was not then able to complete." 

It has been suggested by some of Handel's biographers, 
notably by Schoelcher and Rockstro, that the word 
" Occasional " refers to this tardy fulfilment of Handel's 
obligations, and that the work has nothing to do with the 
rebellion. It is true that it was produced before the 
battle of Culloden finally shattered Charles Edward's 
hopes, but the following letter, written by William Harris 
to his sister-in-law on the 8th of February 1746, shows 
that the work was none the less regarded by Handel's 
contemporaries as expressive of the general rejoicing : 
" Yesterday morning I was at Handel's house to hear 
the rehearsal of his new Occasional Oratorio. It is ex- 
tremely worthy of him, which you will allow to be saying 
all one can in praise of it. He has but three voices for his 
songs — Francesina, Reinholt, and Beard ; his band of 
music is not very extraordinary. Du Feche ^ is his first 
fiddle, and for the rest I really could not find out who 
they were, and I doubt his failure will be in this article. 
The words of his oratorio are scriptural, but taken from 
various parts, and are expressive of the rebels' flight and 
our pursuit of them. Had not the Duke carried his point 
triumphantly, this oratorio could not have been brought 
on." 2 

But the rebellion of 1745 was destined to give birth 
to a more famous work than the Occasional Oratorio. 
The victory of Culloden on the i6th of April 1746 finally 

' William Defesch. * Malinesbtiry Papers, vol. i. p. 33. 


crushed the Jacobite cause, and raised the Duke of 
Cumberland to the rank of a national saviour. The 
horrors of the red reign of terror that followed Culloden 
were ignored or condoned, and when " Billy the Butcher " 
— as even his own soldiers and partisans called him — 
returned to London in July he was the hero of the 

A medal was struck in his honour, and the thanks of 
Parliament, together with a grant of twenty-five thousand 
pounds a year, were poured at his feet. The principal 
cities of England vied in offering him civic honours, and 
the poet Collins sang his sweetest numbers in the young 
warrior's praise. Handel lent his voice to the general 
acclamation, and celebrated the Duke's triumph in the 
martial strains of Judas Maccabcsiis, which was written in 
July and August 1746 to a libretto by Thomas Morell, 
and produced at Covent Garden on the ist of April 1747, 
after repeated postponements on account of the trial 
of Lord Lovat, which occupied public attention to the 
exclusion of everything else. Morell was an amiable 
man and a good scholar. He furnished Handel with the 
librettos of several of his most famous oratorios. In a 
letter written after Handel's death, Morell has given some 
interesting details of the manner in which he and the 
composer worked together : " And now as to Oratorios : — 
There was a time (says Mr. Addison), when it was laid 
down as a maxim, that nothing was capable of being well 
set to Musick, that was not nonsense. And this I think, 
though it might be wrote before Oratorios were in fashion, 
supplies an Oratorio-writer (if he may be called a writer) 
with some sort of apology ; especially if it be considered, 
what alterations he must submit to, if the composer be 
of an haughty disposition, and has but an imperfect 


acquaintance with the English language.^ As to myself, 
great lover as I am of music, I should never have 
thought of such an undertaking (in which, for the reasons 
above, little or no credit is to be gained) had not Mr. 
Handel applied to me when at Kew in 1746, and added 
to his request the honour of a recommendation from 
Prince Frederick. Upon this I thought I could do as 
well as some who had gone before me, and within two or 
three days carried him the first act of Judas MaccabcEus, 
which he approved of ' Well,' says he, ' and how are 
you to go on ? ' * Why, we are to suppose an engage- 
ment, and that the Israelites have conquered, and so 
begin with a chorus as " Fallen is the foe," or something 
like it.' * No, I will have this,' and began working it, 
as it is, upon the harpischord. ' Well, go on.' ' I will 
bring you more to-morrow.' ' No, something now.' 

'So fall thy foes, O Lord ' 'That will do,' and 

immediately carried on the composition as we have it 
in that most admirable chorus. That incomparable air, 
' Wise men, flattering, may deceive us ' (which was the 
last he composed,^ as ' Sion now his head shall raise ' was 
his last chorus) was designed for Belshazzar, but that not 
being performed, he happily flung it into Judas Maccabczus. 
N.B. — The plan of Judas Maccabmis was designed as a 
compliment to the Duke of Cumberland, upon his return- 
ing victorious from Scotland. I had introduced several 
incidents more apropos, but it was thought they would 
make it too long, and they were therefore omitted. The 
Duke, however, made me a handsome present by the 
hands of Mr. Poyntz. The success of the oratorio was 

^ Obviously a reference to Handel. 

^ This is a mistake. " Wise men, flattering " is an adaptation of the song 
" Se vuoi pace," in Agrippina. 



very great, and I have often wished that at first I had 
asked in jest for the benefit of the 30th night instead of 
a 3d. I am sure he would have given it to me ; on which 
night there was above ;^400 in the house. He left me a 
legacy, however, of ^200."^ Judas MaccahcEus marks a 
very important point in the history of Handel's career. 
Its production was the turn of the tide of his fortunes. 
During the season of 1747 Handel abandoned the system 
of subscription performances, and threw his theatre open 
to all comers. This change of policy brought its own 
reward. Finding that his aristocratic patrons had failed 
him, Handel turned to the great middle class, who became 
his ardent supporters and brought him new fame and 

Fielding's Amelia gives a typical description of a 
visit to the oratorio about this time. Amelia and her 
friend start early so as to be in time to get a place in 
the front row of the gallery. Though they arrived " full 
two hours before they saw the back of Mr. Handel," they 
had plenty to amuse them. A gentleman arrived on the 
scene, who was at once smitten with Amelia's charms. 
" He procured her a book and wax candle, and held the 
candle for her himself during the whole entertainment." 
Evidently there was not much luxury about oratorio-going 
in those days, but it was the Amelias of the day and 
their friends and relations who were the chief instruments 
of Handel's ultimate triumph.'^ Soon it became as much 
the fashion to admire Handel as a few years before 
it had been to decry him. Lady Luxborough's steward, 
who paid a visit to London in the spring of 1748, was 
nothing if not up to date. " He went," writes his mistress, 

1 Historical MSS. Commission, Report xv. Appendix, pt. 2. 

2 Fielding, Amelia, Bk. iv. ch. vii. 


' to the oratorio of Judas Maccahceus, where he was highly 
entertained, and he speaks with such ecstasy of the music, 
as I confess I cannot conceive any one can feel who under- 
stands no more of music than myself, which I take to be 
his case. But I suppose he sets his judgment true to that 
of the multitude, for if his ear is not nice enough to 
distinguish the harmony, it serves to hear what the 
multitude say of it."^ 

Handel was not the only composer who tuned his 
lyre to celebrate the victor of Culloden. Gluck, who was 
then in London, wrote an opera called La Caduta dei 
Giganti in praise of the Duke of Cumberland. It was 
produced in 1747, but does not appear to have been much 
appreciated, indeed its failure is said to have had some- 
thing to do with turning Gluck's thoughts in the direction 
of operatic reform. Handel thought very poorly of Gluck 
of whom he is said to have observed that he knew no 
more of counterpoint than his cook ; which very likely was 
hardly an exaggeration, since Waltz, the cook in question, 
had developed into an excellent bass singer after leaving 
Handel's service, whereas Gluck's operas were at that 
time very slight and trivial specimens of the fashionable 
manner of the day. To Gluck himself, however, Handel 
seems to have been more polite. Gluck called on him 
with the score of La Caduta dei Giganti under his arm, 
and took counsel with him as to the reasons of its failure. 
" You have taken far too much trouble over your opera," 
said Handel, whose operatic experiences seem not un- 
naturally to have left him rather cynical on the subject 
of aristocratic taste. " Here in England that is mere 
waste of time. What the English like is something that 
they can beat time to, something that hits them straight 

^ Letters written by Lady Luxboroiigh to Williani Shenstone, 1775, p. 20. 


on the drum of the ear." ^ Gluck had no opportunity of 
profiting by Handel's advice, as he left London soon 
afterwards never to return, but his gratitude to and 
admiration for the great man never failed. Forty years 
later, Michael Kelly, who sang in his Iphigenia in Tauris 
in Vienna, had a proof of this which he relates in his 
reminiscences : " One morning, after I had been singing 
with him, he said, ' Follow me upstairs, Sir, and I will 
introduce you to one whom all my life I have made my 
study and endeavoured to imitate.' I followed him into 
his bedroom, and opposite to the head of the bed saw a 
full-length picture of Handel in a rich frame. ' There, 
Sir,' said he, ' is the portrait of the inspired master of our 
art. When I open my eyes in the morning I look upon 
him with reverential awe and acknowledge him as such, 
and the highest praise is due to your country for having 
distinguished and cherished his gigantic genius,' " - 

Apropos of Judas, Burney gives an amusing account 
of an encounter with Handel at the house of Signora Frasi, 
the famous singer : " At Frasi's, I remember, in the year 
1748 he brought in his pocket the duet oi Judas MaccabcBus, 
' From these dread scenes,' in which she had not sung 
when that oratorio was first performed in 1747. At the 
time he sat down at the harpsichord to give her and me 
the time of it, while he sung her part I hummed at sight 
the second over his shoulder, in which he encouraged me 
by desiring that I would sing out. But unfortunately 
something went wrong, and Handel with his usual 
impetuosity grew violent — a circumstance very terrific to 
a young musician. At length, however, recovering from 
my fright, I ventured to say that I fancied there was a 

^ Schmid, C. W. vott Ghick, p. 29. 
- Kelly, Reminiscences, vol. i. p. 255. 


mistake in the writing, which upon examining Handel 
discovered to be the case ; and then instantly, with the 
greatest good humour and humility said : * I beg your 
pardon — I am a very odd dog. Master Schmidt is to 
blame.' " 

Frasi was rather a favourite of Handel's. She had a 
beautiful voice, but was no musician, and incorrigibly lazy. 
One day she informed him that she was going to learn 
thorough-bass, in order to be able to accompany herself. 
" Oh," said Handel, " what may we not expect ! " ^ 

Judas MaccabcBics gave some colour to the accusations 
which had been levelled against Handel in the days of 
Saul of loving noise for its own sake, at least if we may 
believe Miss Elizabeth Carter, who wrote to a friend soon 
after the production of the work : " In his last oratorio 
he has literally introduced guns, and they have a good 
effect." ^ Sheridan, it will be remembered, had a hit at 
the supposed noisiness of Handel's music in his burletta 
Jupiter, an early sketch for The Critic, in which the author 
whose play is being rehearsed directs that a pistol shall 
be fired behind the scenes, observing : " This hint I took 
from Handel." 

Not a little of the success of Judas Maccabcsus was 
due to the Jews of London, who hastened to patronise 
a work in which the glory of their national hero was 
extolled with so much spirit and eloquence. Their 
numbers were not very imposing, for there can hardly 
have been more than 7000 Jews in all England at that 
time,^ but they were for the most part men of substance, 
and Handel, realising that he had tapped a new fount of 
profit, bade his trusty Morell draw the subject of his next 

' Burney, Commemoration. ^ Carter Correspondence, i. 134. 

^ Hertz, British Imperialism in the Eighteenth Century, p. 63. 


oratorio from the same Hebrew source. Morell obeyed 
with alacrity : " The next year," his record continues, " he 
desired another, and I gave him Alexander Balus, which 
follows the history of the foregoing in the Maccabees. 
In the first part there is a very pleasing air, accompanied 
with the harp, * Hark, hark, he strikes the golden lyre ! ' 
in the second two charming duets, ' O what pleasure past 
expressing/ and ' Hail, wedded love, mysterious law.' 
The third begins with an incomparable air in the affetuoso 
style, intermixed with the chorus recitative that follows it. 
And as to the last air I cannot help telling you that when 
Mr. Handel first read it he cried out, ' Damn your 
iambics ! ' ' Don't put yourself in a passion, they are 
easily trochees.' ' Trochees, what are trochees ? ' ' Why, 
the very reverse of iambics, by leaving out a syllable in 
every line, as instead of " Convey me to some peaceful 
shore," " Lead me to some peaceful shore." ' ' That is what 
I want.' ' I will step into the parlour and alter them 
immediately.' I went down and returned with them 
altered in about three minutes, when he would have 
them as they were, and had set them most delightfully, 
accompanied with only a quaver and a rest of three 

Alexander Balus was written in June and July 1747, 
and produced on the 9th of March 1748. In spite of its 
subject it was never one of the more popular of Handel's 
oratorios, and was eclipsed in general favour by its 
immediate successor, Jos/ma, which was written in July 
and August 1747, and produced on the 23rd of 
March 1748. 

In Joshua occurs the famous " See the conquering hero 
comes," afterwards transferred to Judas Maccabceus, with 
regard to which Miss Hawkins tells a characteristic story. 


Soon after it was completed, Handel played it to Sir John 
Hawkins, and asked him how he liked it. " Not so well 
as some things I have heard of yours," was the reply. 
" Nor I neither," rejoined Handel ; " but, young man, you 
will live to see it a greater favourite with the people 
than my other fine things."^ 

There is another story about Joshua told by Shield : 
" Travelling from London to Taplow with the father of 
modern harmony (Haydn), and having, the preceding 
evening, observed his countenance expressing rapturous 
astonishment during the Concert of Antient Music, I 
embraced the favourable opportunity of inquiring how he 
estimated the chorus in /oshua, ' The nations tremble.' 
The reply was, he had long been acquainted with music, 
but never knew half its powers before he heard it, and he 
was perfectly certain that only one inspired author ever 
did or ever would pen so sublime a composition." ^ 

Joshua was followed in due course by Susanna, which 
was produced on the loth of February 1749, and by 
Solomon, produced on the 17th of March 1749. The 
author of Susanna is not known. The libretto of Solomon 
has been attributed to Morell, but there is no authority 
for the ascription, and as Morell says nothing about it in 
his letter on Handel and his oratorios which has already 
been quoted, the probability is that he had nothing to do 
with it. By this time the tide had definitely turned in 
favour of Handel. Lady Shaftesbury, who was present 
at the first performance of Susanna, wrote : " I think I 
never saw a fuller house. Rich told me that he believed 
he would receive near ^^"400." She did not, however, 
care much about Susanna herself: " I believe it will not 
insinuate itself so much into my approbation as most of 

^ Anecdotes, 1822. 2 Shield, Introduction to Harmony. 


Handel's performances do, as it is in the light operatic 
style." ^ But others seem to have regarded it more 
favourably. It was performed four times during the 
season, Solomon thrice, Samson and The Messiah each four 
times, and Hercules twice. During the oratorio season of 
1749 occurred the public rejoicings for the Peace of 
Aix-la-Chapelle, which had been signed in October 1748. 
The Peace was a patched-up sort of business, and whoever 
profited by it, England certainly did not. But every one 
was tired of the war, and the news of peace was received 
with real enthusiasm in this country at any rate. Con- 
sequently the celebrations were carried out on a grand 
scale. The great feature of the festivity was to be a 
display of fireworks, for which a " machine," as it was 
called, representing a Doric temple, 114 feet in height 
and 410 feet long, was designed by the Chevalier 
Servandoni,2 and erected in the Green Park. Handel 
was commissioned to write music for the festivity, which 
was to precede and accompany the display of fireworks. 
The building in the Green Park, though begun in the 
previous November, was only finished on the day before 
the celebration. Meanwhile the general excitement was 
working itself up to fever-heat. Even so long beforehand 
as December 1748, Lady Jane Coke wrote that she was 
tired of hearing about the fireworks, which it was feared 
would damage the houses in St. James's Street and break 
the windows in the Queen's Library.^ Fireworks were 

^ Malmesbury Letters, vol. i. p. 741. 

2 An architect and artist famous in his day, and much in demand at the 
various courts of Europe. He had a genius for stage management, and at the 
production of an opera at Stuttgart designed a triumphal procession in which 
more than four hundred horses are said to have taken part. His best known 
architectural work is the fagade of St. Sulpice at Paris. 

^ Letters of Lady Jane Coke to Mrs. Eyre, p. 14. 


a rarity in those days, and everybody who could possibly 
manage it was coming up to London to see the show. 
" For a week before," wrote Horace Walpole, " the town 
was like a country fair, the streets filled from morning to 
night, scaffolds building wherever you could or could not 
see, and coaches arriving from every corner of the kingdom. 
This hurry and lively scene, with the sight of the immense 
crowds in the Park and on every house, the guards, and 
the machine itself, which was very beautiful, was all that 
was worth seeing." Horace had little to say in praise of 
the fireworks themselves, and Handel's music he did not 
so much as mention. " The fireworks by no means 
answered the expense, the length of preparation, and the 
expectation that had been raised. The rockets and 
whatever was thrown up into the air succeeded mighty 
well; but the wheels and all that was to compose the 
principal part were pitiful and ill-conducted, with no 
changes of coloured fire and shapes. The illumination 
was mean, and lighted so slowly that scarce anybody had 
patience to wait the finishing ; and then what contributed 
to the awkwardness of the whole, was the right pavilion 
catching fire and being burnt down in the middle of the 
show. The King, the Duke, and Princess Emily saw it 
from the Library,^ with their courts ; the Prince and 
Princess, with their children, from Lady Middlesex's, no 
place being provided for them, nor any invitation given 
to the Library." ^ 

Handel's music, which consisted of an overture and 
five short movements, the latter intended to illustrate 
some of the " set pieces," was scored for fifty-six wind 
instruments, including a serpent, this being the only 

^ Built by Queen Caroline on ground now occupied by Stafford House. 
^ Letter, vol. ii. 


occasion on which he ever wrote a part for that now 
forgotten instrument, though a note preserved among the 
Handel manuscripts in the FitzwilHam Museum seems to 
imply that it was used in performances of Samson and 
Solomon. At that time the serpent was said to be a good 
deal used in French orchestras, though it was rarely to 
be met with in England and Germany. When Handel 
first heard it he is said to have asked, " What the devil 
be that ? " He was told that it was an instrument called 
a serpent. " A serpent ! " he replied ; " Ay, but not the 
serpent that seduced Eve." Handel's music, which was 
ready long before Servandoni's pavilion, was publicly 
rehearsed at Vauxhall Gardens a week before the actual 
peace celebration. According to the Gentleman s Magazine 
the audience on that occasion reached the almost incredible 
total of twelve thousand persons. This being so it is not 
surprising to read in a description of the proceedings : 
" So great a resort occasioned such a stoppage on London 
Bridge, that no carriage could pass for three hours. The 
footmen were so numerous as to obstruct the passage, 
so that a scuffle ensued in which some gentlemen were 
wounded." At the fireworks themselves there were 
accidents as well. Horace Walpole says that two people 
were killed, and some excitement was caused by the 
arrest of Servandoni himself, who completely lost his head 
when his cherished pavilion caught fire, and drew his 
sword upon the Controller of the Ordnance. He was 
taken into custody, but was discharged the next day on 
asking pardon of the Duke of Cumberland.^ 

Handel's music survived the occasion for which it was 
composed. He gave a performance of it at the Foundling 
Hospital a month later, together with a selection from 

^ Gentleman's Masrazine. 


Solomon and a new anthem, " Blessed are they that consider 
the poor," which was written for the occasion. The Prince 
and Princess of Wales were present, and the Hospital 
must have netted a handsome sum by the performance, 
for the tickets were half a guinea apiece, and the audience 
amounted to over a thousand. Handel was nothing if 
not charitable. Through the darkest days of his manager- 
ship he never omitted his annual performance in aid of 
the fund established for the benefit of decayed musicians. 
It will be remembered, too, that TJie Messiah was first 
given for a charitable object. The Foundling Hospital 
benefited more than any other institution by Handel's 
generosity. He followed up his performance of the Fire- 
works Music in May 1749 by presenting the Hospital with 
a new organ, which he opened in person with a perform- 
ance of The Messiah on the ist of May 1750. From 
that time until his death Handel continued to give 
at least one performance annually of The Messiah in the 
Foundling Chapel, each one of which meant an addition 
of some ;^500 to the Hospital exchequer. In his will, 
too, he bequeathed a full score and a complete set of parts 
of his masterpiece to the Hospital, a gift which, according 
to the custom of the time, carried with it the right, though 
not the exclusive right, of performance. The Trustees of 
the Hospital seem in this case to have acted rather a 
grasping part. Knowing of the bequest which Handel 
had made in their favour, they determined to take time 
by the forelock, and to petition Parliament, during the 
lifetime of the composer, to accord to them the sole right 
of performing The Messiah. This was more than Handel 
could stand. " The Devil ! " he cried ; " For what shall the 
Foundlings put mine oratorio in the Parliament? The 
Devil ! Mine Musick shall not go to the Parliament." 


Meanwhile the oratorios went serenely on. Some 
were more successful than others, but on the whole 
Handel's affairs were in a more favourable condition 
than at any previous period of his career. The tide had 
turned at last, and he was on the high road to prosperity. 
His health was good, too, and in every way fortune 
seemed to smile upon him. Lord Shaftesbury, in a 
letter to a friend dated the 13th of February 1750, gives 
a pleasant glimpse of the composer : " I have seen 
Handel several times since I came hither, and think I 
never saw him so cool and well. He is quite easy in 
his behaviour, and has been pleasing himself in the 
purchase of several fine pictures, particularly a large 
Rembrandt, which is indeed excellent. We have scarce 
talked at all about musical subjects, though enough to 
find his performances will go off incomparably well."^ 
Curiously enough, it was with nature rather than with 
man that Handel had now to contend. In the early part 
of the year 1750 London was visited by an epidemic of 
earthquakes. People were thoroughly frightened, and 
numbers went into the country. " They say they are 
not frightened," laughed Horace Walpole, " but that it 
is such fine weather, Lord, one can't help going into the 
country." ^ Mrs. Montagu noted the effect upon Handel's 
audiences : " I was not under any apprehensions about 
the earthquake, but went that night to the Oratorio, then 
quietly to bed, but. the madness of the multitude was 
prodigious. Near fifty of the people I had sent to, to 
play at cards here the Saturday following, went out of 
town to avoid being swallowed, and I believe they made 
a third part of the number I asked, so that you may 

^ Malmesbury Papers, vol. i. p. 77. 
" Walpole, Letters, vol. ii. p. 435. 


imagine how universal the fright must be. The 
Wednesday night the Oratorio was very empty, though 
it was the most favourite performance of Handel's." ^ 

Theodora, which had been composed in June and July 
1749, was produced on the i6th of March 1750, at the 
height of the earthquake scare. It never recovered from 
its unlucky start, or won a tithe of the popularity 
accorded to The Messiah, Samson, or Judas. This was 
partly due, no doubt, to the libretto, which was far from 
being one of the amiable Morell's triumphs. " Handel 
himself," Morell wrote, "valued it more than any per- 
formance of the kind, and when I once asked him, 
whether he did not look upon the Grand Chorus in 
The Messiah as his Masterpiece ? ' No,' says he, ' I think 
the chorus at the end of the second part in Theodora 
far beyond it, " He saw the lovely Youth." ' The second 
night of Theodora was very thin indeed, tho' the 
Princess Amelia was there, I guessed it a losing night, 
so did not go to Mr. Handel as usual ; but seeing him 
smile, I ventured, when, ' Will you be there next Friday 
night,' says he, ' and I will play it to you ? ' I told him 
I had just seen Sir T. Hankey, and he desired me to 
tell you, that if you would have it again, he would 
engage for all the Boxes. ' He is a fool ; the Jews will 
not come to it (as to Judas) because it is a Christian 
story; and the ladies will not come, because it is a 
virtuous one.' " ^ 

Apropos of Handel's smile, which had so invigorating 
an effect upon Morell's nerves, Burney records a some- 
what similar impression of the great man. " His general 
look," he says, " was somewhat heavy and sour, but when 

^ Climenson, Elizabeth Montagu, vol. i. p. 274. 

^ Hist. MSS. Commission, Report xv. Appendix, pt. 2. 


he did smile, it was his sire the sun bursting out of a 
black cloud." ^ Theodora, however, was no smiling matter. 
The public would not have it at any price. Some of 
Handel's friends, according to Burney, would not even 
take tickets for it as a gift, though they begged the 
composer shortly afterwards to give them seats for 
The Messiah. This was too much for Handel. " Oh, 
your servant, meine Herren," he cried, " you are 
damnable dainty ! You would not go to Theodora. 
There was room enough to dance there, when that 
was performed." At another time, however, he took a 
humorous view of the situation, and when some one 
observed that the house was half-empty, replied : " Never 
mind, the music will sound the better." ^ 

On the 1st of May 1750 came the performance of 
The Messiah at the Foundling Hospital, to which 
reference has already been made. This was so successful 
that it had to be repeated on the 15th, many persons who 
had actually bought tickets for the first performance 
being unable to get into the chapel. In June and July 
1750 Handel was engaged upon a "musical interlude" 
entitled T]ie Choice of Hercules. In the composition 
of the work he utilised a good deal of the incidental 
music which he had written a few months previously 
for Smollett's play, Alceste. Rich had intended to mount 
Alceste at Covent Garden with an unusual degree of 
splendour. Servandoni had been commissioned to paint 
the scenery, and Handel seems to have offered to 
compose the music in liquidation of an outstanding debt. 
But for some reason or other Alceste never saw the light, 
and the play itself now seems to be irretrievably lost. 
Soon after finishing The Choice of Hercules on the 

^ Burney, Sketch in Commemoration. " Burney, Conimevtoration. 


5th of July, Handel went abroad for the last time. 
Whether he went for another " cure " to Aix-la-Chapelle, 
or paid a visit to his niece Johanna Friderica, now married 
and living at Halle, is not known ; in fact the only record 
of the trip is the following paragraph, which appeared in 
the General Advertiser oiXhe. 21st of August 1750 : — 

" Mr, Handel, who went to Germany to visit his 
friends some time since, and between the Hague and 
Haarlem had the misfortune to be overturned, by which 
he was terribly hurt, is now out of danger." 

Meanwhile an old friend of Handel's had been getting 
into serious trouble. Earlier in the year Francesca 
Cuzzoni, the heroine of the operatic squabbles of twenty 
years before, had appeared upon the scene of her former 
triumphs. She was middle-aged by this time, and had 
squandered all the money that she had made in her 
youth. Her voice too was a mere shadow of what it 
had once been. Since her last appearance in England 
her career had been singularly chequered. Her first 
achievement on returning to Italy had been to poison 
her husband Sandoni in Venice. She was tried for her 
life, but got off with a sentence of perpetual banishment 
from the Republic, For the next ten years she sang 
chiefly in Germany. We hear of her at Hamburg and 
again at Stuttgart, where her quarrels with Marianne 
Pirker, a rival soprano, recalled the days of the Faustina- 
Cuzzoni riots.^ When she arrived in England Handel 
gave her an engagement for old acquaintance sake, and 
she sang in one of his performances of The Messiah. 
But her day was over, and she soon sank into difficulties. 
In August 1750 Horace Walpole wrote: "Another 
celebrated Polly has been arrested for £10^ even the old 

^ Sittard, Miisik am Wiirttembergischen Hofe, Bd, ii. 


Cuzzoni. The Prince of Wales bailed her — who will do 
as much for him ? " ^ She left London for ever soon 
afterwards, and died a few years later in great poverty 
at Bologna. 

Handel was back again in London by the end of the 
year, and in January 1751 began the composition of 
JepJitJia. He worked at this until the 23rd of February, 
when ill-health compelled him to break off, and he did 
not resume his task until the month of June. This 
forced cessation of activity was doubtless caused by a 
return of the mental disorder which first drove him to 
the baths of Aix-la-Chapelle, aggravated in the present 
instance by symptoms of the blindness which was 
shortly to descend upon him. Indications of the 
approaching failure of his sight are plainly revealed by 
a glance at the autograph of JephtJia. His health, how- 
ever, permitted him to take part in two performances of 
TJie Messiah given at the Foundling Hospital on the 
1 8th of April and the i6th of May respectively, at the 
second of which, according to the Genej-al Advertiser, 
he played a voluntary on the organ, " which met with 
universal applause." Soon afterwards he paid a visit to 
Cheltenham and tried a course of the waters there, 
returning to London on the 13th of June, presumably 
restored to health. He resumed work on Jephtha a {&-w 
days later, and finished it on the 30th of August. The 
oratorio was produced on the 26th of February 1752. 
With Jephtha Handel brought to a close the long series 
of his oratorios. During his remaining years his failing 
eyesight made composition a difficult business, and his 
energies were devoted chiefly to presiding at the per- 
formances of his oratorios. 

^ Walpole, Letters, vol. iii. 


T^HE battle was won at last. The struggle had been 
long and severe, but Handel had come out a 
conqueror in the end. With everything against him he 
had won by sheer force of personality. What Pitt was 
doing in the world of politics, Handel had done in the 
world of art. Different as were the spheres in which they 
worked, " the Great Commoner " and the composer of The 
Messiah had much in common, and the cause for which 
they fought was practically the same. Both were poets 
in an age of prose, transcendentalists waging mortal 
conflict with the forces of materialism. The era of 
Walpole was the apotheosis of common sense. Under 
a veneer of courtliness and polish society was coarse, 
selfish and sceptical— sceptical of faith and enthusiasm^ 
sceptical even of itself "Every one laughs," said 
Montesquieu on his visit to England, "if one talks of 
religion." Morality was out of fashion, drunkenness and 
obscenity were thought no disgrace to the highest in the 
land. Every man, according to Walpole, had his price. 
The throne was occupied by a dynasty which it was 
impossible to respect, loyalty was a thing forgotten, 
patriotism an empty name. But the very commercialism 
of Walpole's rule was forming a race full of promise for 
the future. 


Through the long years of peace and prosperity a 
middle class was being created which held the future in 
its hand. Inarticulate at first, it was only to learn its 
power by years of struggle and endeavour. Of this class 
Pitt was the spokesman. He had sprung from it, and he 
knew its value. " It is the people who have sent me 
here," he cried to the Cabinet that opposed his will. In 
the Parliament of that day he stood alone, the depth of 
his conviction, his fiery energy, his poetic imagination, his 
appeal to the higher instincts of mankind contrasting 
strangely with the mercenary opportunism of the world in 
which he moved. England rallied round the man whose 
hands were clean in an age of corruption, whose life was 
pure in the midst of debauchery, and who loved his 
country with a passionate reverence that struck a new 
note in an age of self-seeking and party faction. 

Handel's appeal was based on similar grounds. The 
turning-point of his career was when in 1747 he threw aside 
his subscription and appealed to the public at large. The 
aristocracy had failed him and he turned to the middle 
class. There he found the audience that he had sought 
in vain in the pampered worldlings of the court. The 
splendid seriousness of Handel's music, its wide humanity, 
its exaltation of thought, its unfaltering dignity of utterance, 
had fallen on deaf ears so long as he appealed only to an 
aristocratic audience. It was in the heart and brain of the 
middle class that Handel found at last an echo to his 
clarion call. For fifty years he had piped in vain to 
princelings ; he turned to the people and found at once 
the sympathy that he sought. 

But neither Pitt nor Handel could have done what he 
did had not English thought and feeling been guided to 
higher levels by the genius of one of the greatest men 


produced by the eighteenth century — John Wesley. To 
him the vast if gradual change that came over society 
during the later years of Walpole's rule was mainly due. 
The religious struggles of the Civil War and the political 
struggles of the Revolution had left in the minds of the 
middle class one overpowering sentiment — a craving for 
peace. This craving, fostered by Walpole, who saw better 
than any one what England wanted, became the parent of 
our later commercial prosperity, but with regard to the 
higher claims of life it induced something very like 
lethargy. Of the attitude of society towards these higher 
claims during the first half of the century we have already 
spoken. Under the first two Georges the upper class was 
frankly materialistic, the middle class apathetic, and the 
lower class not far removed from sheer brutalisation. 

Doubtless beneath this lethargic exterior England was 
still religious, but the old Puritan spirit seemed asleep. 
It was the voice of Wesley that woke it to new life. The 
religious revival that he inaugurated is unparalleled in the 
history of the English people. It penetrated every part 
of the kingdom and every stratum of society. Its strength 
and importance lay in the fact that its results were not 
merely religious. Pitt's appeal was not religious, Handel's 
appeal was not religious, though his oratorios dealt for the 
most part with subjects technically termed sacred as 
opposed to secular. Both men appealed to the higher 
instincts of the nation from a wider standpoint, but 
without the influence of Wesley ever preaching the 
seriousness of life and the responsibility of the individual, 
they would have been but the voices of men crying in the 
wilderness. The audience that guffawed over the Beggar's 
Opera and the audience that rose to its feet to honour the 
sublime strains of The Messiah were one and the same, but 

2 1 2 HANDEL 

Wesley had breathed new life into dead souls, had opened 
blind eyes and unstopped deaf ears, had lifted England 
from its slough of sensual depravity and made it capable 
of understanding the noblest outpourings of human genius. 
Meanwhile the threatening blindness was becoming 
a serious menace to Handel's future. Towards the close 
of the year 175 1 he consulted Mr. Samuel Sharp, the 
Surgeon at Guy's Hospital, who gave a most unfavourable 
report of his prospect of retaining his sight. His spirits, 
usually so elastic, sank, it is said, beneath this terrible 
blow. But he would not give up the contest without a 
struggle. The sight of one eye was already gone, but 
there was a hope of saving the other. His symptoms 
were those of incipient gutta seretia, a disease which 
necessitated a most painful operation. Three times 
Handel submitted to this, but in vain. His friends 
watched the course of the malady with anxious sympathy. 
In November 175 1 Mrs. Delany wrote to her sister: 
" Did you hear that poor Handel has lost the sight of one 
of his eyes ? " and a year later : " I hear he has now been 
couched, and found some benefit from it." But all hopes 
were delusive. On the 30th of January 1753 the London 
Evening- Post informed its readers that : " Mr. Handel has 
at length, unhappily, quite lost his sight. Upon his being 
couched some time since, he saw so well that his friends 
flattered themselves his sight was restored for a continu- 
ance, but a few days have entirely put an end to their hopes." 
Like Milton, whose poetry he had set to such incom- 
parable music, he was to end his days in darkness, but 
like Milton he made up his mind to — 

' ' Argue not 
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot 
Of heart or hope ; but still bear up, and steer 
Right onward." 


His eyes were useless or very nearly so — " so thick a 
drop serene had quenched their orbs" — but his fingers 
were as nimble as ever. He hastily summoned to his aid 
the younger Smith, the son of his old friend Johann 
Christopher Schmidt. Smith was then travelling on the 
Continent, but he returned at once, and with his assistance 
Handel contrived to continue the series of his oratorio 
concerts. Handel's own share of the performance was 
confined to playing organ concertos between the parts 
of his oratorios. " During the oratorio season," says 
Burney, " I have been told that he practised inces- 
santly ; and indeed that must have been the case, 
or his memory uncommonly retentive, for, after his 
blindness, he played several of his old organ concertos, 
which must have been previously impressed upon his 
memory by practice. At last, however, he rather chose 
to trust to his inventive powers than those of reminis- 
cence, for, giving the band only the skeleton or 
ritornels of each movement, he played all the solo 
parts extempore, while the other parts left him ad 
libihivi waiting for the signal of a shake, before they 
played such fragments of symphony as they found in 
their books." ^ 

Another reminiscence of Handel's blindness tells of 
the emotion of the audience during a performance of 
Samson^ when Beard sang with great feeling the famous 
air: — 

"Total eclipse! No sun, no moon! 
All dark amid the blaze of noon." 

The spectacle of the blind composer seated by the 
organ listening to the strains in which he seemed by some 
prophetic touch to have bewailed his own affliction, 

' Burney, Coiin/ienioradon. 


affected those present so forcibly that many of them were 
moved to tears.^ 

Handel was not the only blind musician of that epoch. 
The feats of John Stanley had already excited the wonder 
and admiration of his contemporaries. Stanley had been 
blind since the age of two, but his affliction interfered in 
no way with the exercise of his profession. In the first 
days of Handel's blindness, when he was unable to take 
part in the performance of his oratorios, his surgeon, Mr. 
Sharp recommended Stanley to him, as a man whose 
memory never failed. Upon this, Handel, whose sense of 
humour never deserted him, burst into a loud laugh and 
cried : " Mr. Sharp, have you never read the Scriptures ? 
Do you not remember, if the blind lead the blind, they 
both fall into the ditch." ^ Afterwards, however, he found 
Stanley's assistance very valuable, and after Handel's 
death the performances of his oratorios were continued by 
Smith and Stanley in concert. 

The closing years of Handel's life, in spite of the 
grievous affliction under which he laboured, were smoothed 
by the universal recognition of his genius and by the 
enormous popularity which his oratorios enjoyed. He 
lived a very quiet life, absorbed by music and the com- 
panionship of a few old friends. Even in his younger 
days he had gone but little into society, save to preside 
at the concerts given by the Royal Family, the Duke of 
Rutland, Lord Burlington, and other patrons and friends. 
Now his circle was sadly narrowed. The Prince of Wales 
died in 175 1, but Handel was not permitted to immortalise 
his memory as he had immortalised that. of his mother, 
Queen Caroline. Frederick, pursued by his father's hatred 
even beyond the tomb, was buried in Henry VIl's chapel 
^ Coxe, Anecdotes of Hatidel. 


"without either anthem or organ "^ and Handel's music 
was heard no more in Carlton House. During the last 
few years of his life he rarely left his house in Brook 
Street save to make an expedition to the City for the 
purpose of investing the money that he made by his 
concerts. Considering that these only took place during 
Lent, it is indeed a remarkable fact that although a bank- 
rupt in 1746 he died worth ^20,000. Burney relates that 
a friend of his, "who was generally at the performance 
of each oratorio in the year 1759 and who used to visit 
Handel after it was over in the treasury of the theatre's 
office, said that the money he used to take to his carriage 
of a night, though in gold and silver, was as likely to 
weigh him down and throw him into a fever, as the copper 
money of the painter Correggio, if he had as far to carry 
it." James Smyth told Bernard Granville that during 
his last season Handel made £igSO by his oratorios. 
Handel's blindness prevented him from composing much 
during these closing years. His most important work was 
the remodelling of his early oratorio, // Trionfo del Tempo, 
which it will be remembered had been performed in a 
revived and enlarged form in the year 1737. It was now 
translated into English by Morell, and enlarged by the 
addition of seventeen additional pieces, a few of which 
were entirely new and must have been dictated by Handel 
to Smith, The rest were adapted from earlier works. 
In its new form The Triumph of Time and Truth was 
produced on the nth of March 1757. It was evidently 
much liked, since it was given no fewer than four times in 
1757 and twice in 1758. Time had not robbed Handel's 
touch of its old mastery. Still in his ashes lived their 
wonted fires. The new numbers in The Triumph of Time 

^ George Bubb Dodington, Diary. 


and Truth are in no sense inferior to the old, while the 
duet and chorus, " Sion now her head shall raise," which 
was added to Judas Maccabceus in 1758, is one of the 
finest numbers Handel ever wrote. Up to the last he was 
still busy. In March 1759 Solomon and Susanna were 
performed, in each case " with new additions and altera- 
tions." These alterations, however, may very possibly 
have been made some years previously, and Burney states 
positively that " Sion now her head shall raise " was 
actually the last piece composed by Handel. It is worth 
noting by those who are exercised in mind by Handel's 
use of themes taken from the works of other composers, 
that this number is founded upon a melody by Bononcini. 
Whatever may be thought of Handel's artistic morality, 
it had at any rate the virtue of consistency ! Handel 
seems to have relinquished few of his ordinary pursuits in 
consequence of his blindness. We hear of him playing 
at a concert at Mrs, Donnellan's in 1755, and helping 
Bernard Granville to choose an organ in the following 

One of the latest recorded incidents of Handel's 
career relates to his old friend John Christopher Schmidt, 
or Smith as he now called himself, who had been his 
constant companion for forty years. About four years 
before his death, he paid a visit to his favourite watering- 
place, Tunbridge Wells, accompanied by Smith. They 
quarrelled, as old friends will, over some absurd trifle, 
and parted in anger, vowing never to see each other 
again. The younger Smith, however, remained with 
Handel, and one day shortly after the quarrel Handel 
took his faithful secretary by the hand, and told him that 
he had made up his mind to put his name in his will in 

^ Correspondence of Mrs. Delany, vol. iii. 


place of his father's. Smith, however, declared that if 
Handel did so, he would instantly quit him and take no 
further share in his oratorio performances, " for," he added, 
what will the world think, if you set aside my father 
and leave his legacy to me? They will suppose that I 
tried and succeeded in undermining him for my own 
advantage." Handel yielded the point, and shortly after- 
wards he was reconciled to Smith the father through the 
intercession of the son. 

The end came with startling suddenness. Some 
months before his death, his appetite — usually a large one, 
as is not unfrequent in men of powerful intellect — had 
failed. He took this as a presage of his approaching end, 
but did not on that account give up his usual occupations. 
He conducted a performance of The Messiah on the 6th 
of April with no lack of his accustomed energy, but at the 
end of it he was seized with a faintness which sent him 
at once to his bed. He never rose again, but died some 
time in the night between the 13th and 14th of April 
1759. It is curious, in the case of so celebrated a man, 
that there should be any doubt as to the hour at which 
he expired, yet such is the case. Dr. Warren, who 
attended the composer in his last illness, told Burney 
that Handel died before midnight on the 13th. James 
Smyth, on the other hand, who was Handel's most 
intimate friend, in a letter to Bernard Granville, the 
brother of Mrs. Delany, and another of the composer's 
dearest friends, distinctly states that he died on the 14th 
at eight o'clock in the morning. Neither, however, seems 
to have been present at the actual moment of death. 
Handel's funeral took place on the 20th of April at about 
eight o'clock in the evening. He was buried in the so- 
called Poets' Corner, in the south transept of Westminster 

21 8 HANDEL 

Abbey, in the presence of " a vast concourse of persons of 
all ranks, not fewer than three thousand in number." ^ 

The monument by Roubiliac, which adorns the 
sepulchre, was erected in 1762. It has the faults of its 
creator and its period, but it is a spirited piece of work, 
and was pronounced by contemporary critics to be the 
best portrait of Handel in existence. 

With regard to Handel's external semblance we are, 
indeed, rich in documents. Many excellent portraits 
survive, and we possess descriptions of him by contempor- 
ary writers, from which it not difficult to gather an idea of 
the man in his habit as he lived. His large and portly 
person, his awkward gait, his features — somewhat severe 
in expression until illuminated by a sudden smile — all 
these are as familiar to us as they were to his con- 
temporaries. The character of the man is more difficult 
to come by. Like most men of exceptional power and 
grandeur of mind, he was too far above his contemporaries 
for them to realise his true greatness. They saw only the 
superficial aspects of his personality, and the little foibles 
or eccentricities of his character. Judging him by their 
own standard, they found him wanting in many of the 
minor graces that smooth the trivial round of life. He 
had a hasty temper, and habitually swore like a trooper. 
His manner was often rough and peremptory, but 
he never bore malice. He cared little for the world 
of civil formality, and was happier at home with a few 
chosen friends about him, than in dancing attendance 
upon empty-headed aristocrats whom he could not but 
despise in his heart. This independent behaviour of his 
often stood in the way of his success, but he never yielded 
an inch where dignity and self-respect were concerned. 

^ Gentleman's Magazine. 


He was said to be ignorant and dull outside the affairs of 
his own profession — a charge often brought against those 
whose tastes happen not to coincide with the fashionable 
follies of the hour. He was, on the contrary, a man of 
considerable cultivation. His education had been far 
more complete than was then usual in the case of 
musicians, and his admirable taste in art matters is 
mentioned by several contemporaries who were well 
qualified to judge. His amiable biographers have unan- 
imously attempted to persuade themselves and their 
readers that Handel was what is called a pious man. 
Everything on the contrary goes to prove that his religion 
was eminently of the type which, as Disraeli observed, 
all sensible men profess, but no sensible man talks 
about. According to Hawkins he often spoke of his good 
fortune in having taken up his abode in a country where 
no one suffered any molestation or inconvenience on 
account of his religious opinions. This does not sound 
like the utterance of a very ardent Christian, and there 
is something suspicious, too, about the sacred rapture 
with which the venerable Hawkins recorded the fact that 
during the last two or three years of his life Handel 
attended divine service at St. George's, Hanover Square. 
Dr. Beattie,^ writing in 1780, professes to believe that 
Handel, " in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, 
must have been a pious man," so it is plain that his con- 
temporaries were by no means unanimous upon the point. 
Handel's description of his feelings while composing the 
"Hallelujah" chorus: " I did think I did see heaven 
opened and the great God Himself," have often been 
quoted as an illustration of the sincerity of his religion. 
It has, as a matter of fact, nothing to do with the question. 
^ Forbes, Life and Writings of James Beattie, 1807, p. 331. 

2 20 HANDEL 

It merely shows that he was a man of powerful imagina- 
tion. Doubtless while he was writing the " Hallelujah " 
chorus his imagination conjured up a vision of the glory 
of heaven. Similarly, while writing his famous chorus of 
devil-dancers in JepJitha, he saw with the inward eye 
the high places of Canaan and " the dismal dance around 
the furnace blue." But he has never been claimed on that 
account as a worshipper of Moloch. But speculations of 
this sort are idle at best. It is wiser to turn to Handel's 
works, where the man and his character, his hopes and 
beliefs, his dreams and ambitions are writ large for all to 


HANDEL'S operas are singularly difficult to discuss 
in terms of ordinary criticism. They were ex- 
travagantly praised by the connoisseurs of his time, but 
their vogue was brief. Five - and - twenty years after 
Handel's death they had passed almost entirely from the 
current repertory, and save for the revival of Alinira in 
1874 on the occasion of the opening of the new Hamburg 
opera-house, it must be considerably more than a hundred 
years since any one of them was publicly performed. 
Compared with his oratorios, they now seem sadly remote 
from the circle of modern sympathy. Opera since 
Handel's day has developed with extraordinary rapidity, 
whereas oratorio has tended to advance but little upon 
specially characteristic lines. To the average historian, 
therefore, Handel's oratorios still represent the highest 
point hitherto reached in this particular department of 
music, while his operas are usually dismissed as a 
negligible quantity. It is true that the most revolutionary 
changes in public taste could hardly restore Handel's 
operas to the stage, at any rate under the conditions in 
which they were performed in his lifetime. The dis- 
appearance of that repulsive anomaly, the male soprano, 
has made it impossible for us to give a faithful reproduc- 

22 2 HANDEL 

tion of eighteenth century opera. Yet in an adapted form 
Handel's operas might still find a public, fit though few. 
There is no reason why those who still have ears for 
Gluck should not appreciate the beauties of Handel. It 
is plain that a work written for the stage cannot be 
properly judged in the study, and until Handel's operas 
have been performed on the boards they cannot be 
dismissed as trifling or ineffective. His conventions 
differ widely, it is true, from those affected by the 
composers of our day, but even here he has been mis- 
judged by many who have discussed his methods. It is 
generally said, for instance, that his operas are nothing 
but a string of solos and duets, with a solitary chorus to 
bring down the curtain. 

A cursory examination of the works in question 
reveals that this is not the case. Handel used the chorus 
in his operas more freely than is usually stated, and when 
occasion demanded he wrote concerted numbers for solo 
voices in a manner ordinarily looked upon as the 
invention of a later age. In the opera of Alcina, for 
example, the chorus is freely used in the scenes in which 
the victims of the enchantress Alcina appear, and there is 
a trio in which the conflicting passions of three characters 
are painted with extraordinary power. Agrippina has 
several short concerted movements, and in Radamisto 
there is an elaborate and highly dramatic quartet. It is 
noticeable, too, that as Handel advanced in years and 
experience he employed the chorus more extensively. In 
his latest operas, such as Giustino, Ivieneo, and Deidamia, 
the chorus plays a decidedly more important part than in 
his earlier works. But at no time did Handel permit the 
rules and conventions that governed opera in his day 
to override his own judgment. What these rules and 


conventions were may be read in Rockstro's Handel, but 
as that learned historian was obHged to admit that 
Handel paid little attention to them, and indeed 
contravened them in every opera that he wrote, it does 
not seem advisable to linger over them. Handel followed 
the fashion of his day in the construction of his librettos, 
in the introduction of the inevitable confidantes and the 
no less inevitable underplot, but within certain limits he 
permitted himself all the freedom that he desired. The 
conventions of one age always appear foolish to another, 
but we must not let them blind us to the value of the 
work with which they are associated. But apart from 
convention, Handel's view of opera differed widely from 
that of our day. He treated it lyrically rather than 
dramatically, and who shall say that he was wrong? In 
our time opera has tended more and more to approach 
the confines of drama. Disregarding the one immutable 
convention by which opera exists as an art-form — the 
substitution of song for speech — we aim at a bastard 
realism, striving to bring the song of opera as near as 
possible to the speech of drama. Nothing can make 
opera realistic ; it is conventional in essence ; the less 
lyrical and the more dramatic it is, the less has it a reason 
for separate existence. Handel set his dialogue as 
recitative, and when a lyrical moment called for an 
intenser method of utterance he rose into song. With 
what success he did so cannot be declared until one of his 
operas has been heard upon the stage, but no one who 
accepts Mozart as a master of opera can condemn Handel 
on the ground of form. Certain conventions apart, the 
two men worked upon similar lines, and I have a strong 
impression that a performance of one of Handel's 
operas would be a surprise to the critics and historians 

2 24 HANDEL 

who habitually speak of them as a bundle of dry 

In Almira we see Hercules in his cradle. It is the 
one opera of Handel's Hamburg period that fate has 
preserved for us, and fortunately it appears from con- 
temporary accounts that it was the best of all of them. 
Immature as it unquestionably is, it is an astonishing 
work for a boy of nineteen to have written. As to the 
libretto, the less said about it the better. Almira is a 
comedy of love and intrigue, in which three amorous 
couples and a comic servant plot and counterplot with 
bewildering assiduity. A trained audience might con- 
ceivably follow the devious mazes of the imbroglio with 
some success, but the thing defies verbal description. 
Handel's music is astonishing in its life and vigour. 
From the sonorous overture, so different in its passionate 
impetuosity from Keiser's pretty little preludes, to the 
final ensemble the spirit of youth seems to breathe in 
every bar of it. Weaknesses of course there are. The 
vocal writing is often awkward, and the recitatives are 
sometimes clumsily handled. But whenever a situation 
shows a spark of dramatic feeling, as in that of Fernando's 
farewell, Handel rises immediately to the occasion. 
Already, too, his power of characterisation had begun to 
develop. The passionate Almira is boldly and brilHantly 
sketched, and most of the characters have distinguishing 
traits. In this point if in nothing else Handel was 
markedly Keiser's superior. Particularly good in the 
comic servant Tabarco, whose music has often more than 
a suggestion of the immortal Papageno. In many points 
the maturer Handel is interestingly foreshadowed in 
Almira. The orchestration has some characteristic 
touches, and the little nature-sketches are in the true 


Handelian manner. The breezes whisper divinely- 
through the Hnden branches in Edilia's first air " Schonste 
Rosen," and Fernando's " LiebHche Walder " is a charming 
woodland idyll. Very interesting, too, to Handelian 
students is the Sarabande — a rough sketch for the famous 
air which appeared in // Trionfo del Tempo three years 
later, and figured again as the famous " Lascia ch' io 
pianga " in Rinaldo. In Almira it is a ballet-tune used to 
accompany a dance of Asiatics in the last act. 

Handel's Florentine opera, Rodrigo, has only come 
down to us in an imperfect form. The second act is 
complete, but the beginning of the first and the end of 
the third are wanting. Enough of it, however, remains to 
give us a good idea of its style. It is very different in 
atmosphere from the semi-farcical entertainments that 
were popular in Hamburg. Ferdinand dei Medici found 
Scarlatti's operas too serious, but he must have thought 
that with Rodrigo he had fallen from the frying-pan into 
the fire. Rodrigo is all battle, murder, and sudden death. 
Roderick, the King of the Visigoths, is surrounded by 
enemies and traitors. His wife Esilena tries to buy his 
safety by offering to yield her share of the throne to her 
hated rival Florinda. Esilena and Florinda are happily 
contrasted in the manner of Elsa and Ortrud, and the 
scene in which Esilena makes her offer is very spirited 
and vigorous, the recitative being treated with a much 
firmer hand than in Almira. The character of Esilena is 
finely sketched. Her music has a warmth and tenderness 
which already shows the hand of the master, and the air 
in which she vows that not death shall part her from 
Rodrigo, and pictures herself wandering with him by the 
gloomy shore of Acheron is extraordinarily fine. Florinda 
has some fine music, too, though she flickers out towards 

2 26 HANDEL 

the close of the work ; but the gem of the opera is 
Rodrigo's deHcious air " Dolce amor," a melody of 
celestial loveliness which reappears in Agrippina and // 
Pastor Fido. Handel used his Almira music a good deal 
in Rodrigo, and it is interesting to note the improvements 
resulting from the experience of two years' hard work and 
the study, perhaps, of Italian models. 

In Agrippina Handel found himself in a totally 
different world from that of Rodrigo. Agrippina, for all 
its high-sounding name and the exalted personages who 
move through it, is nothing but a comedy of love and 
intrigue. The classical tradition died hard in Italy. The 
old operas had dealt solely with Greek mythology, and 
though the librettos of the eighteenth century had sunk 
deep in triviality, the fashion of naming the heroes after 
the great men of old was kept up merely for the sake 
of appearance. Thus in the world of opera Xerxes and 
Julius Caesar still disported themselves upon the boards, 
even though the plot of the opera that they figured in 
might be borrowed from some Spanish comedy. Agrippina 
has only the very slightest connection with Roman history. 
It is a close-knit tangle of trickery and scheming, centring 
in Agrippina's endeavour to secure the throne for her son 
Nero. It would serve no good purpose to unravel its 
intricate network of intrigue. The plot is tedious, but the 
characters are well contrasted and skilfully drawn. The 
scheming Agrippina is a good foil to the light-hearted, 
frivolous Poppea, and Claudius, the amorous Emperor, is 
happily contrasted with the loyal Otho and the effeminate 
Nero ; while the picture is completed by the two courtiers 
Pallas and Narcissus, whose alliance Agrippina secures 
by feigning love for the pair of then. Handel's hand is 
firmer in Agrippina than in Rodrigo. He sketches his 


characters with a livelier and more vigorous touch. The 
music was probably written in a hurry, and Handel 
borrowed largely from his previous works. Rodrigo, 
II Trionfo del Tempo, and even La Resurrezione are 
laid under frequent contribution. When changes are 
made, they are always improvements, and almost in- 
variably in the direction of conciseness and compactness. 
Note, for instance, the altered rhythm in " Ingannata un 
sol volta," an adaptation of the lovely air " Dolce amor " 
from Rodrigo, and the pruning of the superfluous and 
meaningless ornaments of " Crede I'uom " from // Trionfo, 
which in Agrippina becomes " Vaghe fonti," and, most 
striking of all, the development of the rather common- 
place " Un leggiadro giovinetto" from // Trionfo into the 
famous " Bel piacer." Now and then a song seems 
to have been pitchforked rather unadvisedly into the 
opera, mainly perhaps on account of its intrinsic tuneful- 
ness. The dainty little air from La Resurrezione, " Ho un 
non so che nel cor," sounds oddly on the lips of the 
masculine Agrippina, and the two courtiers seem to have 
been fitted with songs in somewhat indiscriminate manner. 
But the new music shows all Handel's genius for character- 
isation. Claudius's " Vieni, o cara" is one of the most 
voluptuous love-songs Handel ever wrote, and " lo di 
Roma il Giove sono" has just the right note of pompous 
splendour. Poppea's songs are grace and delicacy personi- 
fied. One of them, " Bel piacer," appeared again in 
Rinaldo, and became enormously popular in England. 
Agrippina's music is appropriately vigorous and deter- 
mined. Her great air, " Pensieri, voi tormentate," is 
almost worthy of one of the passionate heroines of 
Handel's later dramas. Handel seems to have had a 
peculiar affection for Agrippina, and he often used it in 


his later works. Pallas's vigorous air, " La mia sorte 
fortunata" (itself an adaptation, much altered and im- 
proved, of an air in Aci, Galatea e Polifemo), cropped up 
again in Jephtha nearly fifty years later, and the charming 
gavotte-song subsequently became famous as " Heroes, 
when with glory burning," in Joshua. A special feature 
of Agrippina is the unusual numbers of songs alia 
Siciliana which it contains. This alone, apart from 
documents, should have convinced Chrysander that it was 
written after Handel's visit to Naples, where, according 
to that learned historian, he first learnt to appreciate the 
beauty of this particular rhythm ; but as a matter of fact, 
it need only prove that Handel had made acquaintance 
with the music of Scarlatti, whose operas abound in so- 
called Sicilianas, though their composer being himself 
a Sicilian, and knowing perfectly well what the real 
characteristics of Sicilian music were, did not so term 
them. 1 

With Agrippina Handel's apprenticeship ended. He 
had now learnt all that Italy could teach him. His style, 
so far as opera was concerned, was formed. Mr. E. J. 
Dent, in his valuable work on Scarlatti, has summed up 
so admirably the question of the extent to which Handel 
was influenced by Italy and Italian composers, that I 
cannot do better than quote what he says upon the 
subject. " On Handel Scarlatti's influence was strong 
at the beginning, but not very lasting or profound. 
Certainly the change of style that took place in his 
music after his visit to Italy is very noticeable. Rinaldo 
is as definitely Italian as Almira is definitely German in 
its manner. But although he began by modelling his 
phrases on Scarlatti after his visit to Italy, he very 

1 E. J. Dent, Alessandro Scarlatti^ p. 151, 


seldom enters thoroughly into Scarlatti's style. There 
are several reasons for this. His acquaintance with 
Scarlatti lasted a very short time, and his age made 
him more suited to the companionship of Domenico, 
whose influence can also be traced in much of his work. 
Moreover, Handel, though only twenty-one when he came 
to Italy, was a fully fledged composer. He was not very 
familiar with the Italian style, but his Italian Dixit 
Dominus is in some ways stronger than anything of 
Scarlatti's in that line. Handel had had a Protestant 
organist's training, which taught him to build up his 
music on a strong, harmonic framework. But in spite 
of the advantage of that wonderful German faculty for 
translating and assimilating the work of other countries, 
which accounts for much of the greatness of Handel, 
Bach, Gluck, and Mozart, Handel had also the drawbacks 
of his nationality. He set Italian, as he set English, like 
a foreigner, never approaching that delicate intimacy of 
declamation which is as characteristic a quality of Scar- 
latti as it is of Purcell. And it must be remembered that 
a literary appreciation of the kind may take effect not 
only in impassioned recitative, but also in the most 
melodious and florid of arias. Handel's coloratura is 
fairly effective in many cases, but it is commonplace in 
detail. . . . Handel seems to nail his coloratura to its 
framework ; Scarlatti's often gains a priceless charm by 
its wayward independence. Handel often reminds us of 
some prudish nymph of Rubens, clutching her drapery 
tightly about her, anxious and ungraceful ; Scarlatti 
recalls Tintoretto's Venus, her loose transparent girdle 
fluttering crisply to the breeze, serving its whole purpose 
in the delicate contrast that it makes with the pure firm 
line of her perfectly poised and rounded form. Besides 

2 30 HANDEL 

Scarlatti, two other Italian composers exercised an 
equally strong influence upon Handel : the eclectic 
Steffani, from whom Handel learned to write overtures 
and dances in what we may call an Italian version of 
the style of LuUi ; and Bononcini, who, in spite of his bad 
reputation among Handel's admirers, seems to have been 
the real originator of what is commonly described as the 
"Handelian style" — the straightforward, square-cut march, 
which Sullivan parodied so inimitably in Princess Ida. 
Bononcini even influenced Scarlatti himself, and it is 
therefore not surprising that a man of Handel's tempera- 
ment should have seized more readily on the salient 
mannerisms of Bononcini and Steffani than on the more 
intricate subtleties of Scarlatti's music." ^ 

Rinaldo is usually pronounced the finest, as it certainly 
is the most famous, of Handel's operas. It is easy to 
understand why this should be so. It had the great 
advantage of coming first ; it introduced Handel to 
London, and lifted him at once to the position of the 
most popular composer of the day. It struck a new note 
of splendour and romance. It rang with the clash and 
glitter of arms. It had everything that could captivate 
the ear and eye of the crowd — brilliant music, a com- 
prehensible story, gorgeous scenery, novel stage effects 
and admirable singers. But as a matter of fact it is far 
from being the best of Handel's operas, or even among 
the best. It has the advantage of a fine subject, it is true. 
After the puerile absurdities of Alniira, the conventional 
melodrama of Rodrigo, and the pettifogging intrigue of 
Agrippina it must have been a relief to Handel to breathe 
the chivalric atmosphere of the Gerusalenime Liberata ; 
and he contrived to pierce through the poor bald diction 

^ E. J. Dent, Scarlatti, p. 199. 


of the librettist to the wonderful world of romance that 
moved behind — Crusaders and Paynim warriors in shining 
array, Armida and her sorceries, camps and ringing battle- 
fields, and all the pomp and circumstance of war. But 
not even Handel's genius could make Rossi's libretto a 
good one. To see with what sedulous assiduity the poet 
contrived to miss every opportunity one need only com- 
pare it with that of Gluck's Armida. By the side of 
Gluck's tremendous heroine Handel's Armida is a mere 
shadow, and it is a significant proof of the poor part she 
plays in the drama that when Rinaldo was performed at 
Hamburg, the authorities for once renounced their almost 
invariable custom of calling the opera after the name of 
the heroine. 

Rossi, for instance, makes nothing whatever of Armida's 
struggles between love and revenge, nothing of the voluptu- 
ous magic with which the enchantress strove to win Rinaldo 
from his loyalty. Rinaldo is more sympathetically treated, 
but he might have been made much more interesting than 
he is. His constancy to Almirena his betrothed extorts 
our respect for his virtues as a private individual, but it 
detracts seriously from his merits as an operatic hero. 
A Rinaldo who is not for a moment blinded by the 
charms of the magic gardens, and an Armida who is 
prepared to sacrifice her position as the leading sorceress 
of Damascus without a struggle, cannot insinuate them- 
selves very far into our sympathies. Armida is hardly 
more than a sketch for some of the passionate heroines 
of Handel's later dramas, and we shall find a far more 
interesting Rinaldo in the person of Ruggiero in Alcina. 
In a word, the psychology of Rinaldo is childish, and 
Handel could make but little of it. He fell back in 
despair upon the picturesque elements of the story, and 

2 32 HANDEL 

with them it is true that he did wonders. All the martial 
part of the opera is extraordinarily spirited, and fully justi- 
fies the high opinion which most critics have expressed of 
the work as a whole. Nor do the beauties of Rinaldo end 
here. With such meagre materials as his librettist afforded 
him, Handel contrived to do a great deal. The famous 
" Cara sposa " is a wonderful piece of musical characterisa- 
tion, hitting off very subtly the effeminate side of Rinaldo's 
character before disaster had roused him to action, and 
" Ah crudel " shows what Handel might have made of 
Armida if Rossi had given him a chance. Rinaldo 
suffers a good deal from the haste with which it was 
written. A good deal of the music was introduced into 
the score from earlier works in Handel's usual manner, 
sometimes with surprisingly brilliant, but at other times 
with disastrous results. A great deal of Almirena's music 
had been used before, but it fits very well into its place, 
and the renowned " Lascia ch' io pianga " might well 
have been written for the situation. Argante's opening 
air, on the other hand, which was originally sung by the 
Cyclops in Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, though it makes a 
vigorous entry for the Paynim chief, is oddly out of place. 
What can one say of a plenipotentiary who opens negotia- 
tions for a truce by observing apropos de bottes: — 

" Alecto's snakes methinks I hear 
And hungry Scylla barking near." 

The curious thing is that his diplomacy is successful. 
A good deal of the Rinaldo music is taken from an 
Italian cantata on the subject, written during Handel's 
stay at Rome, and this naturally enough fits into its place 
exceedingly well. One of these passages is the entrancing 
Sirens' song, which sounds as if it were an adaptation of 
an Italian folk-song, and makes one regret that time and 


his librettist did not allow Handel to make more of 
Armida's enchantments, which indeed are passed over 
with hardly a word. But when all is said against it 
that can be said, and when it is remembered that it was 
written in a fortnight, Rinaldo remains an astonishing 
piece of improvisation. Its freshness and vigour are 
beyond praise, and it is not difficult to understand how 
it kept its place on the stage when finer and subtler 
works passed into oblivion. 

Of the other operas composed by Handel during his 
first two visits to England, Teseo and Amadigi are the 
most important. Both of them oddly enough are strik- 
ingly similar in subject to Rinaldo. In all three operas 
an important feature of the plot is the rivalry between a 
powerful and malignant sorceress and an innocent and 
trustful maiden. We have already in Rinaldo made the 
acquaintance of Armida and Almirena. Their counter- 
parts in Teseo are Medea and Agilea, and the plot 
practically resolves itself into a duel between the two 
women for the love of Theseus. The characters of both 
are more carefully and elaborately drawn than their 
prototypes in Rinaldo. Agilea is far more of a human 
being than Almirena. There is a definite note of person- 
ality running through her songs, to which Almirena's 
music, hastily raked together from earlier works as it 
was, can lay but little claim. Almirena is only a typical 
ingenue, but Agilea is a tender and loving woman drawn 
with the utmost skill and sympathy. For sheer voluptu- 
ous beauty one of her airs, " Vieni, torna, idolo mio," is 
scarcely to be surpassed in the whole range of Handel's 
operas, and she has several other songs scarcely inferior. 
Medea is the finished portrait for which Armida was a 
hasty sketch. She is positively .^schylean in her rugged 

2 34 HANDEL 

grandeur and passionate force. By a skilful touch she 
appears for the first time in a melting mood, singing a 
lovely air in which the weary wanderer craves for peace 
and tranquillity, but jealousy soon lashes her to fury, and 
the rest of her career through the opera is a wild tempest 
of conflicting passions. The great scene of the opera is 
Medea's incantation, but her soliloquy in the third act, 
when she has resolved upon the death of Theseus, is 
another marvellous page. 

Amadigi as a drama is inferior to both Rinaldo and 
Teseo. The libretto is clumsily put together, and gives 
comparatively little opportunity for the delineation of 
character. Melissa, the sorceress, is cleverly differentiated 
from her two predecessors. She is cast in a tenderer 
mould, and is much more seriously in love than either 
Medea or Armida. She is perhaps less imposing as a 
protagonist, and indeed is rather a weak-kneed sorceress 
at best. She takes her discomfiture like a suffering 
woman, rather than like an injured princess. The differ- 
ence in character between Handel's three enchantresses 
is neatly exemplified by their respective ends. Armida 
makes the best of her defeat and becomes a convert to 
Christianity, Melissa commits suicide, but Medea, still 
defiant and undefeated, flies off in her dragon chariot. 
Regarded purely as music, Amadigi is one of Handel's 
most attractive operas. Not one in the long series is 
richer in beautiful and expressive songs. It is remarkably 
interesting, too, to the student of Handel's development 
on account of its tendency towards a less conventional 
treatment of the dramatic moments of the piece. In this 
respect Teseo is an advance on Rinaldo, but Amadigi 
shows a still more pronounced freedom in structure. 
Handel had written nothing previously that can be com- 


pared to the scene in which the ghost of Dardanus rises 
from the dead and bids Melissa refrain from persecuting 
the devoted lovers. Very striking too are the passages 
illustrating the swoon of Amadigi and Melissa's death- 
scene, and Amadigi's air, " T'amai quanto il mio cor," 
with its rapid alternations of adagio and presto, is a good 
instance of the increase in flexibility which experience 
gave to Handel's method. 

// Pastor Fido and Silla, though both contain much 
beautiful music, are not important to the study of 
Handel's operatic development. 

After Amadigi Handel wrote no operas for five years. 
The foundation of the Royal Academy of Music brought 
him back to the stage with Radamisto, the first of the 
series of fourteen operas written for that institution. 

Radamisto is one of his finest and most carefully 
written works. He had plenty of time, and was not driven, 
as in most of his previous operas, to use music already 
composed for other works. Radamisto is, I think, en- 
tirely original save for one air adapted from Rodrigo, 
and, clever as Handel was in working up old material, 
this fact alone gives it a decided advantage over its pre- 
decessors. The libretto is one of the best Handel ever set. 
The plot is fresh and interesting, and the characters are 
well drawn. Tiridate, the King of Armenia, has married 
Polissena, the daughter of Farasmane the King of Thrace, 
but he has conceived a violent passion for Zenobia, the 
wife of Farasmane's son Radamisto, and in order to get 
possession of her he goes to war with his father-in-law. 
Farasmane is taken prisoner, but Tiridate grants his life 
to the prayers of Polissena. Radamisto and Zenobia 
still hold out against the tyrant, and the first act ends 
with an assault upon their city. 

2 36 HANDEL 

When the second act opens the city has fallen, but 
Radamisto and Zenobia escape by an underground pas- 
sage, and come out beyond the walls, Zenobia is fainting 
with fatigue and can go no further. They are surrounded 
on all sides by the enemy, and escape is hopeless. Rather 
than fall into the hands of Tiridate, she implores Rada- 
misto to kill her. He has not the strength of mind to do 
so, and she leaps into the river Araxes. Before Radamisto 
can plunge in after her, he is taken prisoner by a body of 
the enemy's soldiers. Their captain Tigrane, however, is 
a friend. He allows Radamisto to disguise himself as 
a slave, and so brings him to Polissena in safety while 
he takes his garments to Tiridate as a proof of his death. 
Radamisto tries to induce Polissena to help him to kill 
Tiridate, but in spite of her wrongs she remains true 
to her faithless husband. Meanwhile Zenobia has been 
rescued from the river and is in the power of Tiridate, 
who vainly endeavours to shake her fidelity to the 
memory of Radamisto. Radamisto now appears in the 
presence of Tiridate in his disguise, and is recognised by 
Zenobia, who leaps from the depths of despair to wild 
raptures of joy. Radamisto attempts the life of Tiridate, 
who is saved by Polissena, and Radamisto is loaded with 
chains. Meanwhile Tiridate's army has been roused to 
mutiny by Tigrane, his guards desert him, and he is 
at the mercy of Radamisto and Zenobia. But in an 
eighteenth century opera a happy ending was de rigueur. 
Tiridate is forgiven ; he takes refuge in the arms of the 
faithful Polissena, and the curtain falls on general re- 

The opera is full of life and movement, the emotions 
of the characters are well contrasted, and many of the 
situations are admirable. Handel's music is superb 


throughout. The first act rings with the noise of battle, 
while the anguish of the deserted Polissena, the savage 
fury of Tiridate and the noble dignity of the captured 
Farasmane are treated with incomparable skill. The 
second act opens with a lovely air for the despairing 
Zenobia, followed by the famous " Ombra cara," in which 
Radamisto invokes the shade of his lost wife. Later the 
music rises to wonderful heights of dramatic power. 
Radamisto's passionate appeal to Polissena, her dis- 
tracted struggle between love for her husband and affec- 
tion for her brother, Zenobia's haughty rejection of 
Tiridate's insolent proposals, and her alternations of hope 
and fear, when Radamisto appears, carry the interest on 
without a break. The last act is less thrilling as a whole, 
but it has what is perhaps the greatest thing in the work, 
in the shape of a wonderfully developed quartet, which 
seems to have escaped the notice of the historians who 
habitually speak of Handel's operas as a string of solos. 
The orchestration is throughout unusually rich and full. 
Horns make what is probably their first appearance in 
opera, and are used with singularly fine effect. If ever 
there should be a question of reviving one of Handel's 
operas on the modern stage, the claims of Radamisto 
would deserve careful consideration. 

After Radamisto came that curious experiment of 
tripartite authorship, Muzio Scevola. Handel's share of 
the work contains some splendid music, but in one solitary 
act he naturally found comparatively little scope for his 
genius. His next opera, Floridante, shows a complete 
change of style. Bononcini had appeared upon the scene, 
and the success of his Astarto gave Handel food for 
reflection. Radamisto was obviously far above the heads 
of the audiences of that day, and, besides, the singers 


whom he then had at his command, particularly Anastasia 
Robinson, were not equal to the arduous tasks he imposed 
upon them. The fashionable subscribers of the Academy 
were bewildered by Handel's contrapuntal ingenuity, and 
they complained that his rich harmonies and fertile 
orchestration prevented their following the melodies of It 
the songs. 

Bononcini's simple little tunes were much more to ; 
their taste. What Handel thought about them and their 
criticisms we can easily imagine, but he took the hint , 
notwithstanding. Thus while Bononcini was straining i 
his slight, small talent in vain emulation of the sonorous i 
splendour of his great rival, Handel consciously took a 
leaf out of the other's book, and wrote Floridante to suit 
the uncultivated taste of his patrons. Floridante presents 
a strange contrast to Radamisto. It is designedly slight 
in style ; several of the songs are mere ballads, and the 
orchestration is simplicity itself Only here and there 
does the lion's claw peep out, as in the lovely night-scene 
in which the heroine, like Agathe in Der Freisduitz, listens 
for the footfall of her absent lover. Ottone and Flavio 
followed the same lines as Floridante. Handel now had 
Cuzzoni and Senesino to write for, and in their songs he 
could allow himself an occasional return to the grand 
style of Radamisto, as in the very expressive " Amor, nel 
mio penar" in Flavio, or in Ottone the splendid scena 
" Tanti affanni,"the plaintive " Afifanni del pensier," and the 
pathetic " Vieni, o figlio," in which the divine forgiveness 
of a mother's love is painted in such moving colours. But 
for the most part he curbed his ambition, and gave his 
subscribers plenty of the pretty little Bononcinesque tunes 
that they could hum as they swung home in their sedan- 
chairs. In Giulio Cesare he recanted his heresies, and re- 


turned to his own gods. Either he felt that he had noth- 
ing more to fear from Bononcini, who had got into dis- 
grace with the directors of the Academy, or he was tired 
of dancing in fetters. At any rate Giulio Cesare is freer 
in style than anything he had yet written. The libretto 
of Giulio Cesare covers very much the same period as 
Mr. Bernard Shaw's Ccesar and Cleopatra, but there un- 
fortunately all resemblance between the two ends. 

Giidio Cesare is an almost inextricable muddle of plots 
and counterplots, which positively defies analysis. But 
if the words are weak the music is superb. Its great 
strength lies in the accompanied recitatives. " Alma del 
gran Pompeo," the monologue which Caesar pronounces 
over the tomb of his dead rival, has always been famous, 
but there are other pages in the opera scarcely less im- 
pressive, such as Caesar's great scena, " Dall' ondoso 
periglio," in which recitative and arioso alternate in a 
manner no other composer of the time had dared to 
attempt. Very striking too is the note of romance that is 
struck in certain scenes, particularly in that of the vision 
of Parnassus with which Cleopatra attempts to beguile the 
amorous Caesar. The music here is scored for harps, viola 
da gamba and theorbo, besides the usual strings and wind, 
disposed in two antiphonal orchestras. In other scenes 
four horns are used with surprising effect, probably for 
the first time in the history of opera, and doubtless with 
the intention of suggesting the barbaric character of 
Ptolemy's Egyptian cohorts. But the opera is full of 
interesting details of orchestration, and deserves careful 

Tamerlano, in which the tenor Borosini made his 
first London appearance, is scarcely inferior. The 
principal characters are finely drawn and sharply con- 


trasted — Tamerlane the insolent conqueror; Bajazet the 
defeated emperor, old, weak, and loaded with chains, but 
with spirit still unsubdued ; and Asteria, fit daughter of 
such a sire. The opera abounds in scenes of keenly- 
wrought dramatic fibre. There is a masterly trio in which 
conflicting passions clash in wondrous harmony, and the 
death of Bajazet is a passage of astonishing power, worthy 
of Gluck in his loftiest moments. The old man has drunk 
poison rather than witness his conqueror's triumph and 
his daughter's disgrace. Asteria clings about his neck, 
praying him to let her die with him. In broken accents 
he bids her farewell, and with his last breath hurls curses 
at Tamerlane, and bids him tremble at the terrors of a 
ghostly vengeance. The scene is wrought to a climax of 
astonishing power. Handel, who in his heart of hearts 
hated castrati, seems to have revelled in having at last a 
first-rate tenor at his command, and he wrote music for 
Borosini which it would have been idle to have put in the 
mouth of the effeminate Senesino. Tamerlano affords an 
instance of Handel's employment of the clarinet, which 
had been invented by Denner of Nuremberg about thirty 
years before. In the autograph the pastoral air, " Par che 
mi nasca," is accompanied by two cornetti, but in one of 
Smith's copies the cornetti are replaced by " clar. et clarin. 
1° et 2°." Possibly some German musicians may have 
brought over specimens of the new instrument, and 
Handel, always ready for new experiments in orchestra- 
tion, gave them a trial. He also wrote, probably for the 
same performers, a concerto for two clarinets and co7'no di 
caccia, the concertino parts of which are in the Fitzwilliam 
Museum at Cambridge. This work has never been 

Rodelinda is cast in a gentler mould. It deals largely 


with the woes of the deserted Rodelinda, wife of Bertarido, 
King of the Lombards, who believes her husband to have 
been slain in battle, and is hard put to it to repel the 
attentions of his successor. The opera opens very strik- 
ingly with the return of Bertarido, who finds himself con- 
fronted by his own tomb. His soliloquy, " Pompe vane 
di morte," is one of Handel's noblest accompanied recita- 
tives, and it leads into the still finer air, "Dove sei," ^ in 
which Bertarido invokes the wife whom he believes to be 
lost to him for ever. Later in the opera occurs a wonder- 
ful dungeon scene, which has more than a suggestion 
of Fidelio, while if the passion of the imprisoned Florestan 
may be compared to that of Bertarido, Pizarro's famous 
song may no less fairly be quoted as a counterpart to 
" Fatto inferno," the tremendous scena in which Grimoaldo 
pours forth his soul in tempest. 

Scipio and Alessandro are distinctly on a lower level. 
Scipio lives principally in the renown of its famous march, 
which is said to have been written originally for the 
Grenadier Guards and afterwards to have been incorpor- 
ated into the opera. 

In Alessandro Faustina made her debut, and the 

^ The pious folk of the generation that followed Handel amused them- 
selves with turning his operatic airs into sacred songs. "Dove sei "was 
one that fell into their clutches and came out as " Holy, holy, Lord God 
Almighty," in which version it is now probably better known than in its 
original form. Sometimes this peculiar method of paying a posthumous 
compliment to a popular composer worked rather neatly. As FitzGerald 
pointed out, "Nasce al bosco" bore its conversion into "He layeth the 
beams of His chambers in the waters " rather well, the passage about the 
shepherd sailing along on fortune's favouring gale fitting in happily enough to 
the words " and walketh on the wings of the wind." But "Dove sei" loses 
all its point by being canonised. The tortured passion, wild with all regret, 
of the original is completely smothered under the black coat and white tie of 
its Pecksniffian caricature. 


dramatic interest of the work is largely sacrificed to the 
necessity of keeping the balance even between her and 
Cuzzoni. In Rodelinda and Scipio there are important 
tenor parts, but English amateurs just then would listen 
to nobody but the two prima donnas and their favourite 
castrati, so Handel had to bow to public opinion. There 
is an unimportant tenor part in Alessandro, but the rest 
of his Academy operas are written only for sopranos and 
contraltos, save for the thundering Boschi, whose popularity 
seems to have defied the dictates of fashion. 

With Admeto we are once more in the presence of a 
masterpiece. The libretto is founded upon the world- 
renowned legend of Alcestis, which is treated with some 
skill, though the inevitable underplot is rather tiresome. 
Handel rose magnificently to the occasion, and his music 
is fully worthy of the noble story. Alcestis is one of his 
finest creations, and the sublime passion of her self-sacrifice 
is well contrasted with the light-hearted frivolity of 
Antigona, a youthful shepherdess, with whom Admetus 
consoles himself directly Alcestis has disappeared from 
the scene. Hercules is a splendid figure, and the selfish 
amorist Admetus is very happily drawn. The super- 
natural part of the opera is exceedingly impressive. The 
overture to the second act, which describes the gloomy 
horrors of the infernal regions, is a wonderful piece of 
tone-painting ; and the opening scene, in which the dying 
Admetus is tormented by the Furies who gather round 
his couch, is no less striking than the corresponding scene 
in Gluck's IpJiigeriia m Taiiris. 

No more unfounded charge was ever laid at Handel's 
door than that his operas are all alike. On the contrary, 
no one ever appreciated more fully the value of contrast. 
Riccardo is as different from Admeto as possible. It 


rings with the noise of battle ; it is all martial ardour and 
patriotism. Dramatically it is not specially interesting, 
but it is full of interesting points, particularly as regards 
the orchestration. The elaborate storm-scene with which 
it opens is a very remarkable piece of writing for the time, 
and throughout the work there are signs of curious re- 
search in the choice of instruments. Some of the war- 
like songs have very spirited and effective parts for horns 
and trumpets. In a lovely arioso in which a despairing 
lover prays for death there is an obbligato for the bass 
flute, a " bird-song " sung by Cuzzoni has an elaborate 
and graceful part for a piccolo, and the charming pastoral 
air, " Quando non vede la cara madre," is quaintly accom- 
panied by two "chalumeaux," a primitive species of 
clarinet. Siroe is on the whole rather disappointing, and 
gives the impression of having been written in haste. 
The Persian background tempted Handel to no experi- 
ments in orchestral colour, such as he had recently at- 
tempted, but there are some splendid songs in the opera. 
" Gelido in ogni vena " is a thrilling picture of guilty 
terror, and the monologue of the imprisoned Siroe is at 
least as fine as the corresponding scene in Rodelinda. 

Tolonieo^ the last opera written by Handel for the 
Royal Academy, bears, no less plainly than Siroe, traces 
of the untoward circumstances in which it was composed. 
Yet it contains many charming songs, such as the lovely 
" Fonte amiche," through which the breezes sigh and the 
waters murmur in such adorable concert, and the famous 
Echo song, " Dite che fa," in which Cuzzoni and Senesino 
scored a notable success. The great dramatic moment 
of the piece is the scene in which Tolomeo drinks what 
he believes to be poison, and sinks gradually into a 
lethargic slumber. This scene is in Handel's finest 


manner. It opens with a noble recitative, and the air 
that follows, " Stille amare," is one of the most expressive 
he ever wrote. The ebbing tide of life is pictured with 
marvellous skill and beauty, and the use of a tremolando 
effect in the violins gives a curious touch of realism to the 

The collapse of the Royal Academy and Handel's 
start in management upon his own account opened a new 
period in the development of his operatic style. It is not 
easy to say how far the fact that he had a different 
company of singers to compose for gave a fresh bent to 
his genius, or how far the company was chosen to suit 
the new style which he now adopted, but at any rate the 
difference in manner between the old Academy operas 
and those that he now produced is strikingly marked. 
Lotario, the first opera produced under the new regime, is 
not specially significant, but in Partenope the change of 
style is unmistakable. 

Handel's recent tour in Italy had introduced him to 
many of the rising stars in the world of opera, such as 
Vinci and Hasse, and in Pai'tenope their influence upon 
him can easily be traced in many of the airs. In general 
structure, too, Parte?iope is curiously different from its 
predecessors. The big ah's de parade, which are so 
prominent a feature of Handel's earlier operas when he 
was still mainly under the influence of Scarlatti, have to a 
great extent disappeared. In their place we find briefer 
and more dramatic movement of the arioso type, and 
variety is given to the action by frequent concerted pieces. 
Partenope boasts a trio and a quartet, and no fewer than 
four choruses, and there are numerous symphonic move- 
ments which form a welcome relief to the purely vocal 


Neither Lotario nor Partenope is particularly interest- 
ing as a drama, but both are crisp and vigorous in move- 
ment, and contain some capital characterisation. Lotario 
is a warlike story with the usual allowance of haughty 
tyrants and imprisoned damsels. The martial music is 
all very spirited and vigorous, but the best characters in 
the work are the hopeless lover Idelberto, who has some 
charming sentimental ditties, including the famous " Per 
salvarti," and his very bloodthirsty mother Matilde, a 
lady of truly Spartan fortitude, who ^oes through life 
with a drawn sword in her hand, ready to kill anything 
and anybody on the smallest provocation. 

Partenope is lighter in character. It has of course a 
certain amount of fighting — few Handelian operas are 
altogether peaceable — but it is chiefly concerned with the 
quarrels and intrigues of three suitors for the hand of 
Partenope, the young Queen of Naples, and the efforts 
of Rosmira, a princess whom Arsace has thrown over for 
the sake of Partenope, to regain the affections of her 
faithless lover. Rosmira is a very high-spirited young 
lady, and, not content with disguising herself in male 
attire, goes so far as to challenge Arsace to mortal combat. 
The jealous fury of Rosmira is well contrasted with the 
light-hearted gaiety of Partenope, one of whose songs is 
the well-known " Qual farfalletta " ; but the best songs fall 
to the share of Arsace, who is a distinctly variable person, 
and ranges between transports of rage, as in " Furibondo 
spira il vento," and depths of woe, as in the lovely " Ch'io 
parta," and the still more beautiful slumber-song, " Ma 
quai note," accompanied by flutes, muted strings and 

Poro follows much the same lines as Partenope, 
though the reappearance of Senesino in the company 


tempted Handel to return to some extent to the richer 
and more grandiose manner of his Academy days, at any 
rate in the songs allotted to the great castrato. Poro is in 
one respect somewhat disappointing, as there is little 
attempt in the orchestra at suggesting the Oriental colour 
of the background, though Handel had already made 
interesting experiments of this kind in his earlier works. 
In other respects Poro is fully up to the average Handelian 
standard. Many of the airs are intrinsically delightful, such 
as the pretty pastoral, " Son confusa pastorella," and the 
great dramatic moments of the piece are treated superbly. 
The death-song of the Indian queen is wonderfully 
beautiful, and the fact that it is written upon a ground- 
bass makes one wonder if Handel can possibly have 
made the acquaintance of Purcell's Dido and Apneas. 
One of the most striking and original things in Poro is an 
ironical duet between two jealous lovers, who in bitterness 
of heart quote passages from the love-songs that each 
has sung to the other earlier in the opera. 

Eaio presents no very special claim to the attention 
of modern students. The plot is one of those inter- 
minable palace intrigues, in which every one seems to 
be conspiring against every one else at the same time 
in the most bewildering fashion. The music is no better 
and no worse than that of many other Handelian operas, 
but it is worth noting that the three bass songs, " Se 
un beir ardire" (better known in England as "Droop 
not, young lover"), " Nasce al bosco," and " Gia risuonar 
d'intorno," are still favourites with our latter-day singers. 
They were written for Montagnana, who made his first ap- 
pearance under Handel's banner in Ezio. Montagnana 
was a singer of uncommon accomplishment, who seems, 
to judge from the music that Handel wrote for him, 


to have had an unusual accuracy of intonation in 
hitting distant intervals. 

Sosarme is another of Handel's less important operas. 
The libretto deals in the received eighteenth-century manner 
with a number of amiable and abnormally credulous people, 
who are set at loggerheads by the purposeless malignity 
of a particularly double-dyed scoundrel. There are no 
dramatic situations worthy of the name, but Handel, 
as usual, contrived to make the most of every scene that 
had a spark of human emotion in it. There is a very fine 
aria paiiante, " Cuor di madre," for a mother distracted 
by the emotions caused by the conflict of her husband 
and her son ; and the villain of the piece has a wonderful 
song, " Fra I'ombre," which seems to be enveloped in a 
weird atmosphere of guilt and horror. Still familiar to 
modern ears is the tranquil loveliness of " Rendi il sereno 
al ciglio," in which a devoted daughter soothes a mother's 
anguish, even as Manrico calms the raving Azucena in 
// Trovatore. 

Orlando is in every respect a finer work than its 
immediate predecessors. After the arid intrigues of Ezio 
and Sosarme, Handel must have been enraptured to find 
himself once more in the wonder-world of romance 
painted by the Italian poets of the Renaissance. He 
rose to his subject in characteristic style. Orlando is not, 
perhaps, particularly strong as regards plot, but there 
is a romantic charm about the story which fully atones 
for occasional weaknesses of structure. The savage 
figure of Orlando, whose hopeless passion for Angelica 
has turned his brain, stands out in striking relief against 
the graceful background of the shepherd life into which 
he bursts like a whirlwind. Very imposing, too, is the 
figure of Zoroaster, the magician who eventually restores 


Orlando to sanity. The opening scene, in which Zoroaster, 
posted on a lonely mountain summit, invokes the aid of 
the silent stars, strikes a note of wild grandeur that 
echoes throughout the work. But the great moment of 
the piece is Orlando's mad scene, a passage of such 
concentrated force of imagination and such extraordinary 
inventive skill that by its side all the operatic frenzies 
of our modern Elviras and Lucias seem the most pitiful 
buffoonery. The details of the scene are worth careful 
study. The use of | time is probably unprecedented 
in the history of music, and the contrast between the 
solemn passage on a ground-bass and the wild ravings 
of the peroration is extraordinarily fine. Writing half 
a century later, Burney still viewed the audacious in- 
novations of this scene with grave suspicion. What the 
audiences of Handel's time thought of it, and of the 
opera as a whole, may be gathered from the fact that the 
production of Orlando was the signal for the foundation 
of the rival enterprise at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and that 
Senesino, who had certainly never in his career had music 
of such power and originality put unto his mouth, at 
once severed his connection with Handel, and went over 
to the enemy. 

But the mad scene by no means monopolises the 
interest of Orlando. The opera is full of fine things. 
The scene in which Orlando, exhausted by his frenzy, 
sinks to sleep to the accompaniment of two violette marine 
— probably a kind of viola d'amore — is another masterly 
page. Zoroaster's three airs, " Lascia amor," " Tra caligini 
profonde," and " Sorge infausta una procella," are all 
magnificent, and, to our credit be it said, are still occasion- 
ally to be heard in our concert-rooms. The much-tried 
Angelica, when not being chased by her mad lover, has 


some exquisite songs, Handel never surpassed the wood- 
land magic of "Verdi piante," through which the voice 
of the forest murmurs in such divinely soothing harmony, 
and he gave the shepherd lovers some of the most 
delicious pastoral music he ever wrote. 

Ariadne, though one of the most popular of Handel's 
operas with contemporary audiences, is far from being 
among his best works. It may be regarded as in some 
sort an apology for Orlando. In those days the English 
public was just as impervious to new impressions as it 
is nowadays — it never could have been more so — and 
there can be little doubt that the freshness and originality 
of Orlando repelled the average opera-goer as surely as 
any attempt to enlarge the boundaries of music repels 
our apathetic public to-day. Ariadne was a concession to 
the conservatives. Handel, too, was doubtless anxious 
that his new primo noma, Carestini, who made his debut 
in Ariadne, should win the suffrages of his patrons, and 
he gave him an unusually large number of commonplace 
showy songs, by the aid of which he found no difficulty 
in singing himself into general favour. Nevertheless 
Ariadne has its fine moments. The scene of Theseus's 
dream is effectively handled, and his combat with the 
Minotaur is very spirited. 

The most famous thing in the work, however, is the 
minuet which is played at the opening of the first act, 
while Theseus is disembarking from his galley with the 
bevy of Athenian youths and maidens destined for the 
jaws of the Minotaur. This piece enjoyed enormous 
popularity throughout the eighteenth century. Its fate 
foreshadowed that of the Cavalleria intermezzo in our 
own day. It was transcribed for the harpsichord, arranged 
for the violin, and even metamorphosed into a song. 

2 50 HANDEL 

Long after Handel's death it retained its vogue. The 
cultivated reader will not need to be reminded that in 
She Stoops to Conquer the performing bear, which " danced 
only to the genteelest of tunes," manifested a special 
predilection for its ravishing strains, and that so late 
as 1 78 1 the fair Tilburin^ in Sheridan's Critic trod the 
ramparts of Tilbury " inconsolable to the minuet in 
Ariadne y 

Handel's move to Covent Garden marks the opening 
of what may be called his third operatic period. At this 
epoch in his career he was hard put to it by the competi- 
tion of the " Opera of the Nobility " in the Haymarket, 
and he left no stone unturned in the struggle to defeat 
his rivals. The distinguishing feature of his Covent 
Garden operas — the earlier ones, at any rate — is the 
increased importance assigned to the chorus and the 
introduction of dancing, which had figured but rarely in 
his previous operas. 

Ariodante, the first of the Covent Garden operas, is 
particularly rich in dance music, each act terminating 
with an elaborate ballet, of which Mile. Salle, the French 
dancer, was the bright, particular star. In Ariodante 
Handel turned once more to his favourite Tasso, and 
produced a work which in grace and romantic charm 
yields to few of his operas. The plot is closely akin to 
that of Much Ado about Nothing. Polinesso, the villainous 
Duke of Albany, has been refused by Ginevra, the 
daughter of the King of Scotland, who loves Ariodante. 
In revenge he persuades Ginevra's confidante Dalinda 
to disguise herself in Ginevra's garments and to open 
a private door in the palace to him one night when 
Ariodante is wandering in the garden beneath his 
mistress's window. The plot succeeds. Ariodante, who 


has been a witness of what he believes to be Ginevra's 
perfidy, will have nothing more to say to her, Polinesso, 
however, overreaches himself. To close Dalinda's mouth, 
he plots to have her murdered. Ariodante saves her 
life, and in remorse she confesses her share of the plot 
against his happiness. The music, though not in 
Handel's grandest and most dramatic vein, is full of 
charming little vignettes, such as the garden scene in 
the first act, in which Ariodante breathes his passion 
in strains of the most voluptuous tenderness, and the 
wonderful orchestral picture of the rising moon at the 
opening of the second act. The dances are delightfully 
gay and sparkling, and the little pastoral symphony is 
a gem of the first water. 

Alcina is another and even more successful experi- 
ment in the same style. The libretto, which is taken 
from Ariosto, has a good deal in common with those of 
Rinaldo and Aniadigi. Ruggiero, a Christian knight, 
has fallen into the amorous clutches of Alcina, a Circe- 
like sorceress, who has so bewildered his mind with her 
spells that when Bradamante, his plighted bride, appears 
on the scene to rescue him he shows a pronounced 
disinclination to leave his voluptuous bondage. He is 
brought to his senses by means of a magic ring, and he 
and Bradamante make their escape after breaking the 
urn on which Alcina's power depends, and reducing her 
palace and enchanted gardens to a dreary wilderness. 
Alcina has not perhaps the dramatic force of some of 
Handel's earlier works, but for sheer musical beauty it 
is without a rival, and the character-drawing is often 
curiously subtle. The opening scene in Alcina's palace, 
with its alternation of chorus and dance, is one of capti- 
vating loveliness, often foreshadowing very interestingly 


the style of Gluck, who may well have known Alcina and 
borne it in mind when he wrote his Armida. Alcina is 
one of Handel's most carefully studied characters. When 
she discovers Ruggiero's faithlessness she has a wonderful 
song, " Ah, mio cor," similar in feeling to Armida's *' Ah, 
crudel " in Rinaldo, and to Melissa's " Ah, spietato " in 
Aniadigi, in which she struggles with the conflicting 
emotions of grief and anger. To this succeeds a very 
striking incantation scene, in which she summons her 
minion spirits to assist her. Later her mood changes, 
and a lovely air, " Mi restano le lagrime," paints the 
anguish of her wounded heart in the most moving colours. 
Ruggiero is finely drawn also. His air, " Verdi prati," 
is well known in concert rooms, but apart from its context 
it loses all its psychological force. It is the knight's 
farewell to the enchanted splendour of Alcina's garden, 
and Handel, with his unrivalled knowledge of the human 
heart, has contrived to suggest a touch of that regret, 
which, so long as men are what they are, can hardly fail 
to make itself felt at such a time. Those who measure 
the works of earlier days by the suggestion of modernity 
that they exhibit, should compare Handel's treatment 
of the scene with Goethe's poem Rinaldo, in which the 
same idea is elaborated with truly Goethesque subtlety. 

Atalanta was a piece d' occasion, written in honour of 
the marriage of the Prince of Wales. It is appropriately 
brilliant and festive in character, and makes no pretence 
to dramatic interest, but it is nevertheless one of Handel's 
most charming operas, with its choruses of nymphs and 
shepherds, and its indescribable atmosphere of light- 
hearted gaiety and out-of-door freshness. Handel's 
later operas are hardly upon the same level as their 
predecessors. Ill-health and money troubles weighed 


heavily upon his spirits, and left their mark upon his 
music. Yet, though weak places occur in his last half- 
dozen operas, there is not one of them that does not 
contain beauties of a high order. In Giustino there is 
the romantic apparition of Fortune and a delightful 
sailors' chorus, which may possibly have been the model 
for Mozart's " Placido e il mar" in Idomeneo. Arminio 
is a return to the old heroic manner, and many of the 
scenes are poignantly dramatic. Arminio's great recita- 
tive, " Fier teatro di morte," and the noble air, " Vado a 
morir," are as fine as anything in Radamisto, but for the 
most part Handel seems at this time to have preferred 
h'ghter subjects. Berenice and Farainondo cannot be 
ranked high among the operas, though the minuet in 
the former is one of Handel's immortal tunes, and the 
latter has a very curious and successful experiment in 
realism in the song, " Voglio che sia," in which the hero, 
halting between two opinions, breaks off suddenly in 
the midst of his meditations, while the orchestra expresses 
his uncertainty in a passage of striking originality, which 
Handel a few years later worked up into a fine air in 
Hercules, dealing with a somewhat similar psychological 

Serse is Handel's one excursion into comic opera. 
It is a bustling little work, possibly founded upon a 
Spanish comedy of intrigue, in which only the names 
of the characters have anything to do with the classical 
world. Serse is now known chiefly as containing the 
beautiful air, " Ombra mai fu," which in its modern 
orchestral arrangement as "the celebrated Largo" is 
perhaps more popular than anything Handel ever wrote, 
but some of the lighter music is capital of its kind. 
There is a charming little song sung by the inevit- 


able comic servant disguised as a flower-seller, which 
seems to be founded upon the street cries of the period. 
It is worth remarking that Handel is known to have 
taken a great interest in street cries. Lady Luxborough 
wrote to Shenstone the poet : " The great Handel has 
told me that the hints of his very best songs have several 
of them been owing to the sounds in his ears of cries in 
the streets." ^ An autograph note of his hastily jotted down 
on a loose sheet of paper together with the addresses of 
friends and other memoranda has preserved to us the cry 
of an itinerant match-seller : — 

^ 4 I h- 

W — =?2: 

Buoy a - ny match - es, my match - es buoy. 

At the top of the page is written : " John Shaw, near 
a brandy shop, St. Giles's in the Tyburn Road, sells 
matches about." This interesting fragment is now in 
the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. 

In Imetteo there is little to detain us, but Deidamia, 
Handel's last opera, contains some beautiful music. It 
is peculiar in having two important bass parts, to which 
many of the finest songs are assigned. The beautiful 
" Nel riposo " is one of those airs, like " Tears, such as 
tender fathers shed," in Deborah, and " How willing my 
paternal love," in Samson, in which Handel paints a 
picture of ripe and tender old age that no changes 
of time and fashion can cause to fade. In a very 
different vein is the bright and spirited hunting 
chorus, but Deidaniia is full of good things, and had 
it appeared at a more favourable time and with a 
^ Luxborough Correspondence, 1775, P- S^' 


stronger cast, it would have been one of Handel's most 
successful works. As it was, the public was tired of 
opera for the time being, and Handel was compelled to 
submit to the inevitable. With what feelings he did so 
we cannot tell, FitzGerald, who did not like oratorios, 
believed him reluctant. "Handel," he wrote, "was a 
good old Pagan at heart, and (till he had to yield to 
the fashionable Piety of England) stuck to Opera and 
Cantatas, such as Acis and Galatea, Milton's Fenseroso, 
Alexander s Feast, etc., where he could revel and plunge 
and frolic without being tied down to Orthodoxy. And 
these are (to my mind) his really great works : these and 
his Coronation Anthems, where Human Pomp is to be 
accompanied and illustrated." That Handel was a 
thoroughgoing pagan I readily agree, but even pagans 
cannot endure misunderstanding, opposition and con- 
tempt for ever, and I cannot but think that it was with 
a sigh of relief that Handel turned his back upon the 
stage and devoted himself to the composition of the 
oratorios that were destined to bring him a wider and 
more enduring fame than the fickle world of the theatre 
could give. 


IT has been said by those whose aim is to belittle 
Handel and his works, that he did nothing to 
advance the development of music, that he initiated no 
new forms, but was content to work upon the lines 
already laid down by his predecessors. It is true that 
there was little of the revolutionary about Handel, and 
that for the most part he was content to carry existing 
forms to the highest possible point of beauty and per- 
fection without embarking upon uncharted oceans of 
discovery, yet the charge of his traducers falls to the 
ground if we consider, to take but one instance, the work 
that he did in the development of oratorio. This alone 
gives him a right to rank among the greatest of those to 
whom we owe the modern forms of music. 

Handel's oratorio style was the product of many 
mingled elements. Germany, Italy, and England all 
had a hand in its formation. When Handel reached 
Florence in 1706 he had little to learn from Italian 
composers as regards church music pure and simple. 
Very few authentic works of his Halle and Hamburg days 
have survived to our time. The early oratorios written 
under Zachow's influence are not now accepted as 

Handel's, and of late grave doubt has been cast upon the 



authenticity of the little St. John Passion music. But 
the Dixit Doniinus which Handel wrote at Rome in April 
1707 is quite enough in itself to show how completely he 
had assimilated the best traditions of German ecclesi- 
astical music, Mr. E. J. Dent, the biographer of Scarlatti, 
admits indeed that in some ways it is stronger than 
anything of Scarlatti's in that line. The vocal writing 
is sometimes clumsy and inelegant, but the rich harmonic 
foundation upon which the whole thing is built is typically 
German in its breadth and solidity. Finer still are the 
Laudate pueri and Nisi Dominus, which date from the 
same period. The latter contains a particularly imposing 
Gloria, which was independently performed at the Handel 
Festival of 1891 and astonished every one by the 
vigorous maturity of its style. But Handel's studies in 
church music availed him' little in the oratorios which he 
was called upon to write during his sojourn in Rome. In 
order to realise the position of oratorio in the world of 
music at that time it will be necessary to turn for a 
moment to the earlier history of the form. 

Born almost contemporaneously with opera at the very 
beginning of the seventeenth century, oratorio was in its 
earliest form almost indistinguishable, save in subject, from 
its sister art-form. The rudimentary oratorios of Emilio 
del Cavalieri differ but slightly from the operas of Peri 
and his fellows. There is the same dull waste of recitative, 
broken by no oasis of melody, the same slight thin little 
choruses, the same tinkling accompaniment. Carissimi 
first led oratorio upon paths peculiar to itself. He gave 
breadth and dignity to the choruses, and character to the 
recitatives and airs. More important still for the future 
of the art, he abjured the more specifically dramatic 
effects which oratorio had hitherto shared with opera, and 

2 5 8 HANDEL 

invested all his works with an atmosphere of epic grandeur 
and sublimity, which more than aught else differentiated 
them from works written avowedly for stage representa- 
tion. The death of Carissimi in 1674 left oratorio 
apparently established upon a firm basis, but his influence 
was not strong enough to overrule the pronounced lean- 
ing of the Italian genius towards drama in preference to 
epic, and in the hands of his successors, notably those 
of Alessandro Scarlatti, oratorio soon began to lose its 
characteristic outline, and to approach more and more 
closely to the confines of opera. Rome in the seventeenth 
century was as definitely the home of oratorio, as Venice 
was that of opera. Carissimi wrote his oratorios for the 
Oratory of San Marcello, and it was at Rome that his 
influence should have been strongest, but the fates were 
against him, and the Popes themselves unconsciously 
threw their influence into the opposite scale. 

In 1667 died Clement IX, a man of artistic tastes, 
beneath whose amiable rule music of all kinds flourished 
like a green bay-tree. Innocent XI, who succeeded him, 
was cast in a different mould. He was a stern dis- 
ciplinarian, and had no sympathy for the arts. He seems 
to have been particularly hard upon theatres. First he 
forbade actresses to wear low-cut dresses, and actually 
sent his sbirri to confiscate their short-sleeved garments. 
Finally he banished women from the stage altogether. 
His successor, Innocent Xll, who ascended the papal 
throne in 1691, went still farther. In 1697 he closed the 
Teatro di Tordinona, and thus practically suppressed 
opera altogether. Artistic Rome was in despair. Cardinals 
wrung their hands, and the Arcadian Academy filled the 
air with lamentation. But opera, expelled by the papal 
fork, came back in a new disguise. In the Oratory of 


San Marcello, the home of oratorio, she found a resting- 
place for the sole of her foot. A change came over the 
spirit of the place. Already the music of the oratorios 
there performed had contrived to secularize itself amazingly 
since the days of the severe Carissimi. Now the words 
also were to know the touch of worldliness. It is true 
that the performances were still in Latin, but to the 
literati, exiled from their favourite theatre, who took 
refuge in the oratory, Latin was a mother-tongue. Their 
influence made itself felt, and ere long the oratorios were 
nothing but operas in disguise. The characters were 
sacred, but their emotions and the language in which they 
expressed them were as secular as even a seventeenth- 
century Cardinal could desire. Protoparentuni Crimen 
et Poena, an oratorio on the subject of the Fall, is 
practically one long love-duet for Adam and Eve, and 
the fact that Tamar, Dinah, Susanna, and Bathsheba were 
the heroines of a few other oratorios produced at this 
time gives a good idea of the kind of subject which was 
popular among the cultivated circles in Rome. 

X This was the state in which oratorio was languishing 
when Handel came to Rome in 1707. It is no wonder 
that a stripling of two-and-twenty fell in with the prevail- 
ing taste, and wrote what he knew would find favour with 
his wealthy patrons. Not that there is anything distasteful 
in the libretto of La Resurrezione, but in spite of its 
subject the thing is opera pure and simple. There are only 
two choruses, both very slight in structure. All the rest 
of the work is given to the soloists. La Resurrezione is 
divided into two portions. The first takes place during 
the night preceding Easter Day. Lucifer is discovered 
exulting over the death of Christ, but an angel warns him 
that his triumph is to be shortlived. Two of the holy 


women then appear, lamenting their dead Lord, and 
St. John cheers them with the hope of His Resurrection. 
The scene of the second part is laid in the garden of 
Arimathea, but the actual incidents of the Resurrection 
are not described. Christ is not introduced in person, 
and the story of His appearance is narrated by Mary 
Magdalene. The most striking figure in La Resiwrezione 
is Lucifer, whose music has many characteristically 
vigorous touches. There is a suggestion of grisly horror 
in his invocation to the powers below, " O voi dell' Erebo " 
— the one air in the oratorio that is known to modern 
audiences — and the rushing divisions and giant intervals 
for the voice give an impression of concentrated fury, 
while the \ox\g glissando scale-passages for the violins have 
an eerie effect which the composer was to win by the 
same means a few years later in the incantation scene 
in Teseo. A proof of the close neighbourhood in which 
opera and oratorio dwelt in those days is furnished by 
the fact that Handel transferred a good deal of the 
Resurrezione music to Agrippina a year later. Lucifer's 
air already mentioned appeared in Agrippina in a sort of 
drawing-room edition as an amiable ditty about constancy 
being charmed by the placid ray of hope. A graceful little 
song expressing Mary Magdalene's joy in her Saviour's 
resurrection was put into the mouth of the triumphant 
Agrippina without any alteration whatever. Such strange 
transpositions were not at all uncommon in the eighteenth 
century, and indicated no unusual levity on the part of the 
composer. Many of the most edifying numbers in Bach's 
Christmas Oratorio were taken from his own secular 
cantatas. The lovely cradle-song of the Blessed Virgin, for 
instance, had an earlier existence as a song of seduction 
sung by the siren Pleasure to the youthful Hercules. 


Handel's second Italian oratorio, // Trionfo del Tempo 
e del Disi)iganno, is not perhaps intrinsically more attract- 
ive than La Resurj-ezione, but it has a special interest for 
the student as being the germ of the composer's latest 
work, The TrmmpJi of Time and Truth. Originally written 
in 1708, it was revised for performance in England in 
1737, still in its Italian form, and in 1757 it was translated, 
revised and enlarged, and finally performed in its familiar 
English form. In the main lines of its musical structure 
it resembles La Resurrezione, though its frigid allegorical 
libretto gives even fewer opportunities for dramatic effect, 
and there are sundry differences in detail between the 
two works. // Trionfo contains no choruses at all, only 
a few ensemble numbers for the solo voices. There is 
much less instrumental obbligato work in // Trionfo than 
in La Resurrezione, but on the other hand the orchestra 
plays a more important part. Handel's Neapolitan 
serenata, Act, Galatea e Polifenw, is far slighter in construc- 
tion. It has some pretty orchestral effects, as, for example, 
in the obbligati to a bird-song, and a duet for two violon- 
celli, but its chief musical interest lies in the beautiful 
song of the dying Acis and in the suggestions of humour 
that adorn the part of Polyphemus. 

When Handel came to England in 1710, he thus had 
at his command two perfectly distinct styles, which he 
had not till then had occasion to blend, the German style 
of his church music — softened to some extent and rendered 
less angular by contact with Scarlatti and other Italian 
musicians, but remaining practically the art that he learnt 
at the feet of Zachow in Halle — and his operatic style 
which was almost purely Italian, though traces of Reiser's 
influence and the fashions that moulded Alinira could 
still be traced in it. In England a third influence was 


soon brought to bear upon him. His visits during his 
first stay in England to St. Paul's Cathedral, where 
Maurice Greene officiated as his organ-blower, introduced 
him to Purcell and the English school of church musicians. 
English church music was something very different from 
anything Handel had ever heard before, and it could not 
but exercise a decided influence upon his plastic genius. 
The Ode for Queeji Anne's Birthday (171 3), the first 
choral work written by Handel upon English soil, shows 
this influence in a marked and unmistakable manner. 
It opens with a curiously Purcellian recitative, and 
throughout the work, particularly in the duet upon a 
ground-bass, there are continual reminders of Purcell's 
style. In the Utrecht Te Deum and J7ibilate, which 
followed close upon the Birthday Ode, English influences 
are also to be traced, but less markedly. Chrysander has 
pointed out how closely Handel followed the general 
design of Purcell's Te Dewn, which he undoubtedly heard 
at the Festivals of the Sons of the Clergy, especially as 
regards the alternation of chorus and solos. That is 
true, but there is comparatively little that is distinctively 
Purcellian in the music itself. Handel's mighty strength 
of wing had already left Purcell far behind. His broadly 
developed choruses owe little, if anything, to Purcell's 
short scrappy movements. In the solo numbers the 
influence of Purcell is felt more strongly. The duet, 
" Vouchsafe, O Lord," and the alto solo, " When Thou 
tookest upon Thee," would certainly never have been 
written in anything like their present form but for 
Handel's visits to St. Paul's. 

X In the Brockes Passion^ which Handel wrote in 17 16, 
there is a return to the German style of his youth. The 
work follows in its general lines the accepted formula for 


Passion music as already adopted by Keiser and other 
composers, the sacred narrative, here presented not in the 
words of the Bible but in doggerel verse, being inter- 
spersed with dramatic choruses, reflective solos and 
chorales very much as we find it in Bach's familiar 
settings of the Passion story. It ought to be much more 
interesting than it actually is to set Bach and Handel 
side by side and to compare their respective treatments 
of the same theme. As a matter of fact the comparison 
is fruitless simply because the two men were what they 
were. To Bach, with his profoundly moral view of life 
and the pietistic Lutheranism that ran in his blood, the 
curious medley that German taste had made of the story of 
the Passion appealed with irresistible force. But Handel's 
artistic sensibilities were outraged by the sentimental 
moralisings with which the subject was overlaid, and by 
the aggressive didacticism that often obscured the simple 
majesty of the Biblical story. The frigid extravagances 
of Brockes's poem chilled the current of his inspiration. 
The truth is that his long absence from Germany had 
thrown him out of touch with his countrymen's view of 
religion. Italian culture and English Laodiceanism had 
given him a fresh point of view, and he could not fall 
back into the groove of his childhood's belief If his 
Brockes Passion is one of the least satisfactory of his 
works, it is from no failure in musicianship — for it con- 
tains many vigorous passages, and at least one scene, that 
of Christ's agony in the garden, of deep and moving 
beauty — but because it gives throughout the impression 
of a man working with uncongenial material. If Handel 
wished to prove that he could pit himself successfully 
against his old rival Keiser he won his case, for his 
Passion seems to have been popular in Germany, but he 


did not repeat the experiment, and the Brockes Passion 
was the last work in which he set his mother tongue to 

Handel's excursion into the realms of German music 
did not retard the development of his English style. 
Soon after his return to England he entered the service 
of the Duke of Chandos, and during the next few years 
produced the famous series of anthems universally known 
by the name of his princely patron. Anthems in the 
ordinary sense of the word the Chandos anthems em- 
phatically are not. With their imposing chain of 
choruses and solos, their elaborate overtures and full 
orchestral accompaniment, they have really more in 
common with the church cantatas which Bach was pour- 
ing forth in such profusion at the same time. But here, 
as in the case of the Passion music, the superficial 
resemblance in form only makes the essential difference 
in feeling between the two composers the more striking. 
No two men ever envisaged sacred things with a more 
profound diversity of view. The burning sincerity of 
Bach's genius and his deeply religious nature animate 
every note of his cantatas. The story of Haydn offering 
up a prayer before beginning to compose may be per- 
fectly true of Haydn, but it would be much truer of Bach. 
The production of sacred music was to him an act of 
adoration, whereas to Handel it was merely an artistic 
exercise. Bach's cantatas breathe the inmost secrets of 
his pious heart. Handel's anthems are the brilliant 
improvisations of an accomplished artist. While Bach is 
on his knees in the Holy of Holies, Handel is leading a 
gaily robed procession through the echoing aisles of the 
church. To modern taste, and indeed to all taste that 
values the spirit rather than the body, the end rather than 


the means, Bach's sacred music must rank far above 
Handel's, but it is only fair when we are comparing the 
two composers to look upon the other side of the picture, 
and to remember that though Bach is without a rival in 
his own organ-loft he never strayed from it, whereas 
Handel's range of thought was boundless, and he was as 
superior to Bach in secular music as Bach was to him 
in sacred. Handel's church music was enthusiastically 
admired and extravagantly praised during his lifetime, 
but changes of fashion, which operate as drastically in 
the religious world as in the secular, have estranged 
public sympathy from this particular side of his activity. 
The pomp and glitter of many of the anthems, their 
ease of movement and their affluent inspiration, still 
compel admiration, but they possess few of those qualities 
for which we now value Handel. Every age reads its 
own meaning in an artist and his work, and it is Handel's 
soaring imagination and his sympathy with every phase 
of human feeling that now enchain us. The eighteenth 
century admired him for very different reasons, and the 
works that they most appreciated leave us comparatively 
cold. The conventional jubilations of the Psalms offered 
Handel but little opportunity for the exercise of his 
peculiar talents. His setting of such anthems as the 
well-known " O praise the Lord with one consent," and 
" O come, let us sing unto the Lord " — the only two of the 
series that are ever publicly performed at the present time 
— make no pretension to that imaginative power which 
illuminates the oratorios. They are vigorous, straight- 
forward and effective, but Handel's keenest admirer can 
hardly say more for them than that. In some of the other 
anthems, which it is almost impossible to perform 
nowadays owing to Handel's employment of counter- 


tenors in the choruses in place of contraltos and tenors, 
there are occasional passages which give a foretaste of 
what he was later to accomplish in his oratorios. In 
" The Lord is my light" there is a splendid sea-piece, " It 
is the Lord that ruleth the sea," which was afterwards 
elaborated into the great chorus in Isi-ael in Egypt " But 
the waters overwhelmed them," and, finer still, a wonder- 
ful thunder and lightning chorus, a rough sketch for the 
great chorus in Joshua. Perhaps the noblest of the 
Chandos anthems is " Let God arise," with its impressive 
opening chorus, in which the scattered enemies flee in all 
directions in the most realistic manner, and its very- 
poetical setting of the words, " Like as the smoke 
vanisheth." In a tenderer vein is the beautiful " As pants 
the hart," an anthem of which, as of many of the others, 
several versions exist, the alterations and revisions being 
due partly to changes in the Canons choir, and partly to 
the necessity of adapting them to the less elaborate choir 
of the Chapel Royal. Three Te Deums — the third a free 
adaptation of the second — also date approximately from 
Handel's Chandos period. They are grandiose and 
sonorous works in the " big bow-wow " manner that was 
so much admired by his contemporaries, but now seems a 
trifle too much bewigged and beruffled for modern taste. 
That in B flat is the most elaborate and is usually con- 
sidered the finest, but all three are works of uncommon 
dignity and grandeur of style. They express the pomp 
and circumstance of religion rather than its holiest 
and most sacred raptures, but, like the anthems, they 
compel admiration by the consummate ease and fluency 
of their technique, and they furnish a triumphant proof 
of Handel's superb mastery of his material. 

But even the bright array of Chandos anthems fades 


into insignificance by the side of the two great works 
which Handel produced while an inmate of Canons, EstJier 
and Acis and Galatea. Esther, the first oratorio ever 
written to English words, is all-important in the history 
of Handel's artistic development. Like many other art- 
forms, English oratorio owed its birth to what may be 
called a happy accident. We know nothing of the circum- 
stances that led to the composition of Esther, but there 
can be little or no doubt that it was intended for stage 
performance. It was originally described as a masque, 
and was performed with scenery and action when revived 
in 1732 by the children of the Chapel Royal. Only the 
prohibition of Bishop Gibson prevented Handel from 
giving it as a drama on the stage of the King's Theatre. 
Thus Esther, though rightly called an oratorio in the 
modern sense of the word as being the harbinger of 
the mighty succession of masterpieces that Handel was 
subsequently to produce in this form, is in itself a hybrid 
work, tracing its descent to Greek tragedy through 
Racine's drama, of which it is a free adaptation. Racine 
avowedly followed Greek methods, seeking to establish 
a due balance between chorus and principals, and Pope, 
if the libretto of Esther was actually his handiwork, 
reduced the drama to a minimum and gave additional 
importance to the chorus, unconsciously accentuating the 
epic element which was eventually to distinguish oratorio 
from drama, Esther can hardly have been very effective 
as a drama owing to the preponderance of the choral 
element, and its real value probably only became apparent 
when it was performed as an oratorio. It is, naturally 
enough, somewhat tentative in style, and the fact that 
Handel used a good deal of his Passion music in its 
composition, sometimes in a rather indiscriminate manner, 


tends to blunt the sharpness of the characterisation. But 
though as a whole Esther is a work of more promise than 
actual performance, it is rich in the seeds of what was 
afterwards to develop into the grand manner of Handel's 
later days. The overture has always been a favourite, and it 
is valuable, apart from its sheer musical value, as a rejoinder 
to the often repeated accusation that Handel's overtures 
have nothing to do with the works that they precede. 
In this respect, indeed, Handel was far in advance of his 
age. The Esther overture has an obvious connection with 
the unfolding of the drama. The first movement, closely 
allied as it is in rhythm to Haman's first song, plainly 
portrays the arrogance of the tyrant ; the second movement 
is no less obviously a picture of the Jewish exiles' grief 
and despair, while the note of triumph sounds clearly in 
the final fugue. As to the oratorio itself, its strength 
most emphatically does not lie in its solos, though it is 
surprising how well some of them fit the situation, 
considering to what very different words they were 
originally written, and what very different emotions the 
music was intended to illustrate. Thus Ahasuerus's 
graceful love-song was originally a lament sung by a 
believer over his crucified Saviour, and the duet in which 
Esther is reassured by her lord is an adaptation of that 
sung in the Passion music by the Blessed Virgin and 
Jesus Christ in His last moments. Strangest of all, the 
moving strains in which Haman pleads for his life with 
Esther are taken from Christ's agony in the Garden of 
Gethsemane. But if the solos in Esther are not alto- 
gether satisfactory, many of the choruses are magnificent, 
and give rich promise of what Handel was subsequently 
to accomplish in handling vast masses of sound. The 
plaintive " Ye sons of Israel, mourn," is a highly successful 



first essay in a manner of which the beautiful " For Sion 
lamentation make," in Judas Maccabcsus, is perhaps the 
most familiar example. " He comes to end our woes " 
is a ringing song of victory in Handel's most brilliant 
vein, and in the splendid finale he put to triumphant use 
the experience that he had gained in his Chandos 

Acis and Galatea was, like EstheT-, originally called 
a masque, and like Esther was doubtless intended for 
stage performance, but there the resemblance between 
the two ends. EstJier was a pioneering excursion into 
an undiscovered country, but in Acis, Handel was on 
ground that he had already traversed during his Italian 
days. The English Acis has nothing in common with 
the Neapolitan Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, save subject, but 
it is a nobler and richer development of the " pastoral " 
that had been popular all over Europe for many years. 
In its exquisite strains the masques of Jacobean times 
reached a brilliant climax. Acis was the most perfect 
work Handel had yet written, some might say the most 
perfect work he ever wrote. Gay's pretty poem inspired 
him, and his music is wrought with a touch at once delicate 
and sure. " Do you know the music ? " wrote Edward 
FitzGerald to Frederic Tennyson. " It is of Handel's best, 
and as classical as any man who wore a full-bottomed wig 
could write." Wig or no wig, it has the magic that only 
genius can evoke, and the romantic charm that is for all 
time. The sunny life of old Sicily sparkles in its pages, 
the very spirit of Theocritus breathes through its delicious 
melodies. We know it nowadays, alas ! only as a cantata, 
but its proper place is in the theatre, as the few who can 
remember Macready's wonderful revival in 1842, of which 
FitzGerald was writing, can testify. It has often been 


performed on the stage since those days, and always with 
remarkable success. Even the grotesque exhibition given 
ten years ago by the now defunct Purcell Operatic Society 
did not wholly obscure its beauties. 

After leaving the Duke of Chandos, Handel devoted 
his energies almost exclusively to opera for many years. 
The coronation of George II in 1727 drew him for a 
moment from the stage to the church. The four anthems 
that he wrote for the festal service rank among his most 
famous works, and in their own particular line have never 
been surpassed. Never before or since have the pomp and 
splendour of human things been set to music of more 
regal magnificence. The voice of a great nation speaks 
in Handel's majestic strains. The flash of jewels and the 
glitter of gold is in his music. The spiritual note is not 
touched — what place, indeed, could it have in the corona- 
tion of George II ? — but so far as earthly things can 
compass the sublime it is compassed in Handel's Corona- 
tion music. The superb dignity of the anthems has 
extorted eulogy from men more famous in literature than 
in art. Edward FitzGerald, a devoted, though narrow 
Handelian, thought them his masterpiece. " Handel never 
gets out of his wig — that is, out of his age. His Hallelujah 
chorus is a chorus, not of angels, but of well-fed earthly 
choristers, ranged tier above tier in a Gothic cathedral, 
with princes for audience, and their military trumpets 
flourishing over the full volume of the organ. Handel's 
gods are like Homer's, and his sublime never reaches be- 
yond the region of the clouds. Therefore I think that his 
great marches, triumphal pieces, and Coronation anthems 
are his finest works." One of De Quincey's opium-dreams 
refers to the magnificent opening of Zadok the Priest, 
the first of the four anthems : " Then suddenly would 


come a dream of far different character — a tumultuous 
dream, commencing with a music such as now I often 
heard in sleep, music of preparation and of awakening 
suspense. The undulations of fast-gathering tumults 
were like the opening of the Coronation anthem ; and, 
like tJiat, gave the feeling of multitudinous movement, of 
infinite cavalcades filing off, and the tread of innumerable 

The revivals of Esther ■a.x^i^ Act's in 1732 turned Handel's 
attention once more in the direction of oratorio, and in 
1733 he produced Deborah, which was thus the first of his 
sacred oratorios conceived and executed as such. Deborah 
differs totally from Esther in structure. Esther was an 
oratorio only by accident, but Deborah was specially 
designed to bring into play those mighty forces which 
in Esther only made but a fitful appearance. There is 
nothing dramatic about Deborah. It has no action and 
very little characterisation. The scheme of the work is 
purely epical. It tells the story of a battle of nations. 
The protagonists are no mere individuals, but the rival 
powers of Israel and Amalek, the worshippers of Jehovah 
and of Baal, joined in bitter and deadly strife. The plot 
is unfolded almost entirely by means of narrative anf 
chorus, the utterances of Deborah, Barak, and the other 
characters being for the most part merely comments on 
the situation. Thus the structure of the work differs 
entirely from that of drama, with its quick play of 
chequered feeling, and approximates far more closely to 
that of the epic, in which, though the characters appear 
and pronounce speeches, they seem to move in a world 
far removed from that of real life. The stately splendour 
of Handel's style harmonised incomparably with the form 
that he had practically invented. His solemn slow- 


moving airs fit as perfectly into their places in the general 
scheme as do the speeches in Paradise Lost, The varied 
passion and strenuous emotion that in his operas he painted 
with so fine a touch would here strike a jarring note. 
Dignity is the note of Deborah, though within the limits 
that he assigned himself Handel found room for powerful 
contrasts and felicitous descriptive effects. The overture, 
even more patently than that of Esther, is a disproof of the 
assertion that Handel's preludes have nothing to do with 
the works that they usher in. Two of the themes are actually 
taken from choruses in the work itself,onesungbythepriests 
of Baal and the other by the Israelites, and the overture is 
obviously designed as a brief compendium of the struggle 
between the opposing nations. The solos are the least 
interesting part of the work. Many of them are taken 
from earlier works, from the Passion and from various 
anthems. They are often skilfully adapted to new uses, 
but there is little attempt at characterisation, and the 
characters are for the most part merely types. Abinoam, 
the father of Barak, is an exception. He is the first of 
the wonderful series of old men, whom Handel drew with 
so loving a hand. His song, " Tears, such as tender fathers 
shed," though an adaptation of an air in one of the Chandos 
anthems, is a perfect little picture of the tenderness of 
paternal love. But the great strength of Deborah lies in 
its choruses, which are something altogether different from 
anything the world had seen before. In grand procession 
they stride along, with necks with thunder clothed and 
long resounding pace. Several are taken from the Corona- 
tion anthems, but the new ones are more imposing still. 
" Immortal Lord of earth and skies," " See the proud 
chief," " Lord of Eternity " — each one seems more 
tremendous than the last, for Handel's coursers never tire. 


In his later days Handel did far finer and subtler work 
than anything in Deborah, but he rarely surpassed the 
ringing choruses in which the might of Israel defies the 
pride of heathendom, 

Deborah, as we have seen above (p. 119), was very 
far from being an unequivocal success. The raised 
prices of the seats got Handel into serious trouble, 
and it is easy to believe that the sonorous splendour 
of the music was a good deal above the heads of the 
audiences of Walpole's London. Handel had yet to 
educate his followers into appreciating his sublime epics. 
He seems to have felt this himself, and his next oratorio 
Athaliah-wdiS much slighter in design. The grave majesty 
of Deborah here gives place to a lighter and more lyrical 
manner, and the functions of the chorus are considerably 
curtailed. The libretto of AthaliaJi was doubtless partly 
responsible for this. It is an adaptation of Racine's 
Athalie, and has a good deal more of the drama about it 
than Deborah. The characters are more carefully treated, 
and the solos are on a distinctly higher level, Athaliah 
herself dominates the scene. There is an almost ^schy- 
lean grandeur in her guilty pride and insolence, and the 
superstitious terror inspired by her boding dream gives a 
curiously heathenish touch to her strange and imposing 
figure. In charming contrast is the group of pious 
Israelites, the inspired seer Joad, the gentle Josabeth, and 
the delightfully boyish Joash, As in Deborah, the Israelites 
and the worshippers of Baal are employed to balance the 
picture with striking effect, but the contrast is more 
subtly elaborated in Athaliah. The voluptuous beauty of 
heathendom is emphasized in a remarkable way. The 
chorus, " Cheer her, O Baal," in which Athaliah's disturbed 
spirits are soothed by her attendants, has a strange 


languorous charm that breathes all the potent magic of 
the perfumed East, and no less insinuating is the caressing 
tenderness of the lovely air, " Gentle airs, melodious 
strains." The Israelites' music, too, if less overpowering 
than the stupendous choruses of Deborah, has a special 
charm and character of its own. Several of the choruses 
are fine specimens of Handel's grand manner, but it is the 
lighter numbers, such as the exquisite chorus of virgins in 
the opening scene, and the delicious duet, " Joys in gentle 
train appearing," that impart to AtJialiah its special char- 
acter, and give it a place of its own among Handel's 

The two works which Handel wrote in 1734 for the 
marriage of his patroness and pupil the Princess Royal, 
were almost entirely concocted from his earlier com- 
positions. Parnasso in Festa was mainly drawn from 
Atkaliah^ though two of the best numbers in it, the 
choruses of hunters and of sylvans, are new, and the 
Wedding anthem was altogether an adaptation of old 
material. A grander note was struck in Alexander^ s Feast 
(1736), a work which during Handel's lifetime was as 
popular as anything that he produced. It is curious to 
note, as the years pass by, how each generation in turn 
seems to find something to suit its own special require- 
ments in the works of the great masters. Handel, for. 
instance, is treasured to-day by those who know anything 
of his music outside The Messiah chiefly for his imaginative 
qualities, but the eighteenth century preferred him in his 
more rhetorical vein. The critics of the day set little 
store by even such a tremendous masterpiece of imagina- 
tion as Israel in Egypt. The Messiah itself, judged as a 
work of art pure and simple, fell flat. It was only when 
it was definitely taken over by the Church that it became 


popular. What people preferred in those days was the 
sonorous dignity of the Dettingen Te Deum and the glitter- 
ing pageantry of Alexander's Feast, and, as we have seen, 
the same view of Handel prevailed even down to the days 
of FitzGerald. Alexatiders Feast is indeed a masterpiece 
in its own way. Handel's music is an admirable equiva- 
lent for the ringing rhetoric of Dryden. If one looks in 
vain for profound feeling or soaring imagination, Handel 
gives you instead admirable workmanship, inexhaustible 
vigour, and unfaltering dignity of utterance. Alexander' s 
Feast is a wonderful series of pictures, each one dashed 
off in broad splashes of colour by the hand of a master. 
When Handel is in this vein his simple directness of 
method is overpowering. He seems to hurl his effects 
straight in your face. It was of such music as this that 
Mozart was thinking when he said, " When he chooses, 
he strikes like a thunderbolt." 

The anthem written in 1736 for the Prince of Wales's 
wedding was a much better piece of work than the hastily 
put together pasticcio of 1734. Handel turned to it often 
in after-life, and the greater part of the music is familiar 
to us in the slightly altered form in which it reappeared 
in The Triumph of Time and Truth and other oratorios. 

The spring of 1737 saw the revival in a remodelled 
form of Handel's Italian oratorio, // Trionfo del Tempo, 
to which we will return in discussing the final form in 
which the work was presented in 1757. 

In the following autumn he composed the beautiful 
anthem for the funeral of Queen Caroline, a work which, 
for dignity of utterance and depth of feeling, yields to 
nothing that he ever wrote. But all his previous triumphs 
paled before the two great oratorios that he composed 
in 1738, Saul and Israel in Egypt. In Saul Handel 


found a subject worthy of his powers. The libretto is 
skilfully put together, and Handel wedded it to music 
which combines the force and majesty of Deborah with 
the freshness of Atlialiah. The special note of Saul is 
picturesqueness. Each scene in turn is handled with a 
graphic touch that makes every detail start into life 
with singular vividness. Take the opening scene, in 
which the people of Israel welcome the youthful hero, 
David, after his victory over the Philistines, First we 
hear the sounds of rejoicing in the distance, little more 
than a joyful marchlike movement accompanied by the 
ringing of a peal of bells. Then the maidens of Israel 
appear, leading the long procession. The music swells 
into a wonderful swaying rhythm as they dance forward 
singing a chorus of enchanting freshness and simplicity. 
The scene darkens for a moment while Saul passes along 
muttering envious curses, only to brighten again as the 
whole body of the people burst into triumphant chorus 
with the blaring of trumpets and the crashing of drums. 
Later in the work comes the appropriate pendant to 
this brilliant scene of rejoicing — the wonderful lament 
over the bodies of the slain king and his son. Never, 
even in Samson, did Handel give voice to the strains 
of a nation's lamentation in tones of a sublimer pathos. 
The varied emotions of the scene are depicted in his 
music with all that concentrated power of imagination 
which is Handel's special property. First comes the 
solemn procession bearing the bodies of Saul and 
Jonathan to the immortal strain of the Dead March, 
while the people lift their voices in a chorus of mourn- 
ing for the fallen warriors of Israel. David's eulogy of 
the heroes strikes a sterner note. There is a touch of 
the fierce joy of battle in the music as he sings of 


the sword of Saul, and how it "drank the blood of 
slaughtered foes." The people catch the spirit of his 
words, and echo them in a short chorus of almost bar- 
baric rapture. Then the music changes again, as David 
sings of Jonathan and the love that passes the love of 
women, leading into a chorus in which the very soul 
of passionate grief is transmuted into sound. After 
the tension of this scene, the relief of the final chorus 
is unspeakable. It is a jubilant prophecy of the future 
triumphs of David, and brings the oratorio to a close 
with the thunder of victory. These are only two of the 
many noble passages in Saul. There are others no less 
striking, such as the famous Envy chorus and the weird 
incantation scene in the witch's cavern at Endor. The 
character-drawing in the oratorio is more graphic than 
anything Handel had yet attempted, though his touch 
was to become surer in his later years. Saul's jealous 
misanthropy is well contrasted with the boyish charm 
of David, and another happy touch is gained by the 
contrasted emotions of the gentle Michal and the haughty 
Merab. Very striking, too, is the music associated with 
the " monster atheist," Goliath, which those who are 
interested in tracing foreshadowings of modern effects 
in the music of older masters should compare with 
Wagner's giant music in Das RJieingold. The orchestra- 
tion of Saul is particularly interesting. Handel here 
employed effects which he never subsequently attempted 
in oratorio, feeling probably that the epic character of 
the form demanded an austerer method of treatment 
than was legitimate in opera. The score of Saul is 
enriched by trombones, and has an independent organ 
part — the latter a rare feature in eighteenth-century 
music. The use of a carillon of bells gives a special 


colour to the Israelite rejoicings in the opening scene, 
and two bassoons are employed with eerie effect to 
support the utterances of Samuel's ghost. A curious 
instance of Handel's occasional use of archaic instru- 
ments is to be found in David's exorcism of the evil 
spirit, which is accompanied by a theorbo. 

Immediately upon the completion of Saul^ Handel 
plunged into the composition of Israel in Egypt. No 
two works could present a more complete contrast. 
Handel seems to have been making experiments in the 
matter of form, and at this point in his career he was 
evidently wavering between the dramatic and the epic 
varieties of oratorio. The rapid play of individual 
emotion in Saul gives place to a severely epic manner 
of narration. Save for the few bars allotted to Miriam, 
the solos in Israel are purely impersonal. The tale of 
the salvation of the chosen people is told almost entirely 
in a chain of gigantic choruses, illustrating the sufferings 
of Israel in the land of bondage, the plagues inflicted 
by Jehovah upon the Egyptians, the escape of the 
Israelites, the passage of the Red Sea, and the final 
song of victory. The subject is colossal, and its treat- 
ment no less so. The possibilities of choral music as 
a means of expression are practically exhausted in Israel. 
Nothing like it had been heard before its day, nor has 
been attempted since. Israel remains one of the most 
astonishing tours de force in the history of music. As a 
combination of massive grandeur of style and picturesque 
force, it stands alone. It is like a vast series of frescoes 
painted by a giant on the walls of some primeval temple. 
The colours may have faded, but the sublime conception 
and the grand strength of line survive to astonish later 
and more degenerate ages. The range of Handel's 


genius was never more triumphantly displayed than in 
Israel. The skill with which each separate effect is 
gained is no less striking than the unfailing power of 
picturesque suggestion. Each of the plague choruses 
is a masterpiece in its way. There is, as it were, a 
shudder of disgust in the diminished sevenths and the 
passages of descending semitones in " They loathed to 
drink of the waters," which is considerably more im- 
pressive than the somewhat naif realism of the succeed- 
ing solo, " Their land brought forth frogs." But if the 
frogs cannot be taken very seriously, the tremendous 
exordium of " He spake the word " transports us to a 
very different world, and the swarming flies and tramp- 
ling locusts are painted with no loss of epic grandeur. 
Finer still is the famous Hailstone chorus, one of those 
big primitive things which are typical of one side of 
Handel's genius. The means by which the gathering 
storm is suggested are almost ludicrously simple, but 
they never miss fire, and the climax bursts upon us with 
terrific majesty. Finest of all is " He sent a thick dark- 
ness," in which the voices of a bewildered people cry 
to each other through the murky air with so strangely 
desolate a pathos. But space forbids a minute analysis 
of so familiar a work, and I must be content to touch 
on some of the most prominent features of the oratorio. 
It is characteristic of Handel that often a word or a 
phrase was enough to stimulate his genius to astonishing 
flights of imagination. Thus the words, "He led them 
forth like sheep," are responsible for the deliciously 
pastoral flow of the chorus, " But as for his people." 
Similarly in a later chorus, " The people shall hear," the 
composer fastened upon the phrase, " till thy people 
shall pass over, O Lord," and made it the foundation of 

2 8o HANDEL 

an amazing picture of the weary march of the Israelites 
through the desert — a picture heightened by harmonies 
which, even to us, seem audacious in their rugged dis- 
sonance, and to an eighteenth-century audience must 
have sounded much as the harmonic experiments of 
Strauss or Debussy sound to modern ears. This is 
immediately followed by another picture, suggested by 
the words " Thou shalt bring them in," in which the 
serene loveliness of the land flowing with milk and honey 
is painted with a tranquil charm that is intensified by 
the harsh discords of the preceding chorus, Handel 
appreciated the majesty and splendour of the sea as 
perhaps no other composer in the whole history of music 
has done. His works are full of noble sea-pictures, and 
Israel is particularly rich in them. The solemn march 
of the children of Israel through the wild waters is 
grandly suggested in " He led them through the deep," 
and even finer is " But the waters overwhelmed them," 
through which the tumultuous glory of the lashing 
waves surges with such marvellous freshness and vigour ; 
but the greatest moment of all is the tremendous close 
of " And with the blast of Thy nostrils," where the depths 
congealed in the heart of the sea are painted with that 
awful simplicity of which Handel alone held the secret. 
" Egypt was glad " is a happy instance of Handel's 
ingenious use of other men's work for his own purposes. 
It is borrowed almost note for note from an organ 
canzona by an obscure German composer named Kerl, 
but it fits admirably into its place. Handel's conception 
of the Egyptians was that of a dull, hide-bound race, 
whom even the miraculous series of plagues scarcely 
disturbed in the narrow groove of their complacent 
apathy. He here contrasts their frozen conservatism 


with the progressive genius of the Israelites by the use 
of archaic methods of expression. The idea is felicitous, 
and, like most of Handel's experiments, is carried out 
with complete success.^ But everything else in Israel 
pales before the astounding finale, in which triumphant 
rapture is tuned to such strains as Handel himself never 
surpassed. The tremendous " I will sing unto the Lord ""; 
soars to fabulous heights of sonorous splendour, and fitly j 
brings to a close an oratorio which has a place of its own 
among the world's masterpieces. Handel might justly 
have said of Israel, as Wagner said of Tristan und Isolde, 
that it was an extravagance, not to be repeated nor 
imitated, but of all his works it is the most completely 
out of the reach of every other composer who ever lived. 

After Israel Handel may well have felt that even his 
tireless coursers needed some repose, and his next two 
works were on a much less ambitious scale. Tlie Ode for 
St. Cecilia's Day, though brief in compass, ranks among 
Handel's finest and most characteristic works. Dryden's 
poem, written as it was for musical setting, offers every 
possible opportunity for varied treatment. The opening 
recitative, "When nature underneath a heap of jarring 
atoms lay," is a curious piece of descriptive writing, in 
which odd little snatches of naif realism jostle passages 
of real grandeur. In some of the airs that follow, the 
obbligato passages now sound sadly antiquated and 
meaningless, but there is a splendidly martial ring in the 
very Purcellian " The trumpet's loud clangour," and the 
air alia Hornpipe, " Orpheus could lead the savage race," 
into which Handel, who apparently liked Scotchmen no 

^ The question of Handel's indebtedness to earlier composers, of which 
Israel in Egypt affords perhaps more striking instances than any of his other 
works, is discussed in Appendix C. 


more than did Dr. Johnson, introduced an unmistakable 
allusion to the bagpipes, is deliciously fresh and quaint. 
But the two great movements of the work are the lovely 
organ-song, " But oh ! what art can teach," with its 
wonderful atmosphere of tranquil ecstasy, and the 
tremendous finale, in which the awful terrors of the 
Judgment Day are painted with a sublime majesty 
worthy of the brush of Michael Angelo himself. 

Very different in scope is Handel's setting of Milton's 
L Allegro and // Penseroso, arranged by Jennens, and 
adorned with a singularly tasteless coda of his own 
devising, // Moderato. Here Handel laid aside his wig, 
and wrote a work which stands by itself for freshness of 
inspiration and delicacy of treatment. U Allegro is a 
series of exquisite genre pictures sketched with the 
lightest touch and yet elaborated with the most intimate 
detail. Nothing that Handel has left us shows more 
convincingly his love of nature. U Allegro is full of 
delicious studies in plein-airisine. The country breezes 
blow freshly and sweetly through it, and the perfume of 
the wild rose lingers in its tender melodies. The recitative, 
" Mountains, on whose barren breast," is a wonderful piece 
of landscape-painting, and who has ever surpassed the 
romantic moon-rise in the second part of " Sweet bird," 
so rarely sung by the sopranos who revel in the faded 
coloratura of the opening section ? In a different vein is 
the enchanted mystery of the " summer eves by haunted 
stream," and the woodland magic of" Hide me from day's 
garish eye." It is worth noting that L Allegro was 
written during the great frost of 1740, yet there is no 
touch of winter in its merry strains. Snow-bound as he 
was in London, Handel seems to have harked back in 
imagination to the fields and hedgerows of Edgware. 


L Allegro rings with the sounds of rustic mirth. " Let 
me wander" is a delicious little idyll of the meadows, 
leading into the innocent gaiety of " Or let the merry 
bells ring round," with youth and maiden dancing in the 
chequered shade. Another perfect little vignette is the 
hunting scene pictured in " Mirth admit me of thy crew," 
and the note of honest English merriment rings clear 
in the splendidly vigorous laughing-song, " Haste thee, 
nymph." But L Allegro is not all out-of-door life by any 
means. There is a charming little song in which the bell- 
man in the street and the cricket on the hearth have a 
quaint kind of duet, and the fireside picture in " Oft on a 
plat of rising ground," with the curfew tolling in the 
distance, is as perfect as a Dutch interior by Teniers or 

I have lingered over V Allegro not merely on account 
of its intrinsic beauty, but because it is one of the best 
proofs we have of Handel's extraordinary breadth of 
sympathy. Nothing in man or nature came amiss to 
him. It is impossible not to feel that the man who wrote 
L Allegro knew all about the scenes he was describing. 
Not only had he sat dreaming in close covert by some 
brook, and wandered over russet lawns and fallows grey, 
but he had discussed the hay crop with the mower as he 
whetted his scythe, and as like as not danced to the 
rebeck's sound with the buxom wenches of Edeware, 


FAMILIARITY breeds contempt, the proverb tells 
us. I am by no means sure that that is true as 
a general rule, and when it does happen I am inclined 
to think that the contempt is well deserved, so that the 
familiarity merely uncloaked the weaknesses which were 
not perceptible at a first acquaintance. However, famili- 
arity breeds a good many other things as well, chiefly 
misunderstanding. It is the most familiar things that are 
the most misunderstood. Look at the Bible, for instance, 
which all of us are supposed to know by heart. Is there 
a more misunderstood book in the world ? How many of 
the pious people who daily absorb a portion of it ever 
realise, to take one point, the transcendent literary beauty 
of our Authorised Version ? How many even realise its 
value as a record of fact? They allow themselves to 
be hypnotised by its supposed sanctity, and forget that it 
purports to be a record of the actions of human beings. 
As a rule those who read it oftenest know least about it. 

Look again at Gullivers Travels, which I suppose, 
next to the Bible, The Pilgrim's Progress, and Robinson 
Crusoe, is the book that the average Englishman knows 
best. How strange has been its fate. The marvellous 

and terrible book in which Swift poured forth the stored 



passion of his savage soul and glutted his hatred of the 
animal man, has sunk to the rank of a nursery primer 
from which lisping infants learn to spell. The fate of 
The Messiah has been in some ways harder still. 
The stupendous masterpiece in which Handel released 
Christianity from the bondage of fact, and wrote the 
romance of human redemption in characters of immortal 
fire, is now degraded to the level of a mild digestive 
which helps the struggling Nonconformist conscience to 
tide over the festivities of Christmas. The ceremony of 
attending a performance of The Messiah is to the average 
Englishman as immutable a Christmas institution as going 
to church or eating a slice of turkey. If you tell him that 
The Messiah is a work of art, you either amuse or shock 
him. A work of art, indeed — he would as soon apply the 
phrase to a plum-pudding ! 

As a matter of fact, The Messiah is not only a very 
great work of art, but it is actually the first instance in 
the history of music of an attempt to view the mighty 
drama of human redemption from an artistic standpoint. 
We have only got to compare The Messiah with such a 
work as Bach's Matthew Passion to see how entirely its 
point of view differs from that of a work written, so to 
speak, under the wing of the Church. Bach's Passion 
is only a work of art by accident. It was primarily 
written for edification, and edification, however excellent 
a thing in itself, has nothing to do with art, though art 
is often compelled to be its handmaid. Bach's Passion 
is a church service, Handel's Messiah is a poem. 
Bach deals with facts, Handel with ideas. I am con- 
tinually reading in popular little musical handbooks of 
the day that Bach is extraordinarily modern in feeling, 
and Handel altogether old-fashioned. Very likely that 


may be so in some way that I do not understand, but it 
strikes me that as regards their view of reHgion precisely 
the opposite is the case. Bach's attitude to Christianity 
is just what one would expect from a man of his bringing 
up and surroundings. He is a very good example of the 
average pietistic eighteenth-century Lutheran, with his 
bloodthirsty delight in the realistic details of Christ's 
passion, very much in the style of our own pious poet 
who wanted to be washed from his sins in a bath of 
blood or something of the kind. We have moved on a 
little since those days, and even the extreme Evangelicals, 
if any of them still survive, would now find Bach's 
Christianity slightly out of date. Handel's view of 
Christianity, on the other hand, is so surprisingly modern 
that the only book in which I have found it paralleled 
with any exactness is Mr. George Santayana's Interpreta- 
tions of Poetry and Religion, which was published only a 
few years ago. I will venture to borrow a few passages 
from that very remarkable work, because I find Handel's 
attitude to Christianity as I read it in TJie Messiah better 
expressed in Mr. Santayana's words than in any that I 
could myself devise. In The Messiah, then, as I have 
said, for the first time in the history of music we find 
the drama of human redemption treated as a poem, not 
as a record of events. While his predecessors and con- 
temporaries had exercised their art in presenting the 
story of Christ in its most human and realistic colours, 
Handel realised that the facts of Christ's life were nothing 
until they became symbols, and that the Christian system 
was in fact a picture of human destiny, an epic containing, 
as it were, the moral autobiography of man. The cruci- 
fixion, for example, seemed to him a tragic incident 
without further significance if regarded merely as an 


historical fact, as unessential to the Christian religion as 
was the death of Socrates to the Socratic philosophy. In 
order to make it a religious mystery, an idea capable of 
converting the world, the moral imagination must trans- 
form it into something that happens for the sake of the 
soul, so that each believer may say to himself that Christ 
so suffered for the love of him. Then, by ceasing to be 
viewed as an historical fact, the death of Christ becomes 
an inspiration. The whole of Christian doctrine is thus 
religious and efficacious only when it becomes poetry, 
because only then is it the felt counterpart of personal 
experience and a genuine expression of human life. This 
is the idee mere of TJie Messiah. The aim of the work is 
purely artistic. It has no didactic purpose. It is not a 
sermon, but a song — a magnificent effort of the human 
imagination, exercised upon the greatest and most 
inspiring of conceivable subjects. Incidentally it is also 
extremely edifying, but its edificatory purpose has been 
read into it by modern hearers who have found in The 
Messiah what they wished to find, rather than what the 
composer meant them to find. But it is the special 
property of great works of art that they mean one thing 
to one generation and one to another. The Messiah has 
a message to high and low, rich and poor, wise and 
foolish alike. By the side of imaginative flights of such 
measureless sublimity that they soar far beyond the ken 
of ordinary mortality, it contains passages so simple and 
direct that the dullest mind can comprehend them. The 
Messiah, if not Handel's greatest work, is undoubtedly 
the most universal in its appeal. 

Charles Jennens, the compiler of the text, has never 
had justice done to him. His libretto is really a very 
able piece of work. Knowing as we do how often 


Handel stayed beneath his roof, we may take for granted 
that the two worked together at TJie Messiah, and it is 
possible that Handel had a larger share in the prepara- 
tion of the text than Jennens, whose letter on the subject 
has already been quoted, cared to admit. However that 
may be, the ingenuity with which the words are selected 
is remarkable. Jennens took especial pains to steer clear, 
so far as was possible, of a mere statement of the facts of 
Christ's life, emphasizing rather the ideas that underlie 
them, and using the prophetic language of the Old 
Testament in preference to the narrative of the -New. 
This alone did much towards raising the work from the 
earthly region of prose to the ethereal heights of poetry. 
But the libretto alone is, of course, nothing but a string 
of texts, however skilfully juxtaposed. It was Handel's 
genius that welded them into a sublime work of art. 
The Messiah, as has been said, tells the story of man's 
redemption. It is divided into three sections, the first of 
which sets forth the promise of the Redeemer, the birth 
of Christ, and His mission of healing and comfort ; the 
second is devoted to His passion, resurrection, and ascen- 
sion, the preaching of the gospel, the discomfiture of the 
heathen, and the establishment of the kingdom of God 
upon earth ; the third .part deals with the Christian 
belief in the resurrection of the body, and ends with the 
triumph of the redeemed and the glory of heaven. 

Face to face with a subject of this character, Handel 
felt that the picturesque orchestration which is so 
prominent a feature of Satil would be out of place. The 
drama of human redemption demanded an austerer and 
more reticent mode of treatment. The score of The 
Messiah is one of the simplest that Handel ever wrote. 
Save in the choruses, where the voice parts are doubled 


)y wind instruments, and trumpets and drums are 
sparingly used, the accompaniments are written almost 
vvithout exception for strings alone. Yet within the 
narrow limits that he assigned to himself Handel's 
comm.and of varied colour is remarkable, and Sir 
Frederic^ Bridge's highly successful experiment of 
performing-, The Messiah at the Albert Hall with the 
original orchestration h^s opened the eyes of many, who 
knew the oratorio only as disguised in the elegant 
embroidery of Mozart's additional accompaniments, to 
the real beauty ano' majesty of Handel's score. 

Nothing is so difficult to criticise as the familiar ; 
and to English musicians,\ who have known every note 
of The Messiah from the/r childhood, it is especially 
difficult to get, as it were, o itside the work, to banish the 
sentimental associations t' at have clustered round it, 
and to regard it as a w )rk of art pure and simple. 
There are many well-mea .ing persons to whom such an 
attitude of mind is dista' ceful. The Messiah is to them 
a thing above all criticiF:m, occupying a place apart from 
Handel's other works, indeed apart from all other music 
whatsoever. But it is no good taking The Messiah on 
trust as a sort of divinely inspired revelation. The only 
way to understand and appreciate it is to pick it to pieces, 
just as if it were a new work by a composer of our own 

The overture, gloomy and austere in tone, presents a 
picture •f the world plunged in sin and despair, before 
the premise •f a. Messiah hari kindled the hope of ever- 
lasting life. On this scene of doubt and darkness the 
voice of the Comforter strikes with magical effect. The 
change from minor to major at the opening of the accom- 
panied recitative, " C©mf»rt ye my people," is one of th«se 

2 90 HANDEL 

effects, all the more thrilling from their very simpHcit} ' 
of which Handel held the secret. The following air 
"Every valley," is on a distinctly lower level. Like £(> 
many of Handel's songs — and of Bach's too, (or ^ \ t 
matter, to say nothing of most of the other eightoe..., 
century composers — it is defaced by the inte^rminable 
divisions, which were accepted by Georgian audiences 
as conventionally expressive of joy and gladness, but 
seem to modern ears as frigid and tastele^^s as the stucco 
ornaments of a barocco church — so Utile does one era 
accept the conventions of another. ! Apart from its 
, divisions and its vigorous and pirited flow, there is very 
little in "Every valley" w i lingering over, and the 
naz'veU' with which the " ro-. place-. " are made plain is 
apt to provoke a sm'ic. 2Nioi is ihe chorus, "And the 
glory of the Lord," in any seni 2 one of Handel's greatest 
achievements. There is a ceri in straightforward vigour 
about it in which Handel's mu»ic is rarely deficient, but 
its rhythm sadly lacks dignity and its development is 
long-winded, and the great effec.!: of the repeated note 
is much better managed in the '' Ht^llelujah" chorus, for 
which indeed "And the glory" is hardly more than a 
rough sketch. Far more striking is the great scena that 
follows, which was originally written for a contralto but 
is now, according to a precedent established by Handel 
himself, usually assigned to a bass.^ The opening 
recitative, " Thus saith the Lord," is extraordinarily in.-, 
pressive ; even the quaintly realistic divisions on the 

^ Considerations of space forbid me to discuss the questions raised by a 
comparison of the various MSS. of T/ie Messiah. Numerous versions of 
many of the airs exist, and a study of the changes introduced by Handel 
into the oratorio is exceedingly interesting. With regard to details, students 
will find Sir William Cusins's pamphlet on The Messiah (Augener & Co., 
1874) extremely valuable. 


word " shake " seem to fit into their place very happily. 
The following air, " But who may abide," is one of Handel's 
most startlingly original productions. The mere form of 
the air was probably unprecedented in his time, and the 
contrast between the terrible desolation of the opening 
larghetto and the rushing flickering flames of the refiner's 
fire in the succeeding prestissimo is astonishingly fine. 
This is one of the passages in The Messiah that has 
gained most by the recent return to Handel's original 
accompaniment. Mozart, if the additions usually attri- 
buted to him are actually his, seems, as in many other 
instances, to have totally misapprehended Handel's 
meaning. His graceful embroideries completely obscure 
the carefully designed contrast between guilty man 
standing defenceless upon the bare earth and the advent 
of the terrible Judge in flames and tempest. The interest 
of the chorus, " And He shall purify the sons of Levi," is 
purely musical. I confess that I have not the least idea 
what connection the words have with the " plot " of The 
Messiah, and I doubt if Handel had much more. He 
adapted the music from one of a set of Italian duets that 
he had written just before beginning The Messiah, a 
blameless ditty about nothing in particular, and it fits 
the sons of Levi just as well as the flowers and sunsets 
of the original poem. 

The little recitative that follows, " Behold, a virgin 
shall conceive," short as it is, is one of the most wonderful 
things in The Messiah. It has the tender exaltation of 
one of Giovanni Bellini's Madonnas, with a touch of 
sacred awe that was out of Bellini's compass. The same 
note of solemnity sounds through the rapture of " O thou 
that tellest good tidings to Zion," and lifts it above mere 
jubilation. One of the most striking features of The 



^ Messiah is the skill which, in spite of its purely epical 
structure, Handel arranged his contrasts. The bass 
recitative and air, " For behold, darkness shall cover the 
earth," would be extraordinarily impressive in any context, 
but placed as it is between two of the " high lights " of the 
work it is doubly effective. Simple as are the means 
employed, it is one of the most speaking musical pictures 
ever painted. " The people that walked in darkness " 
affords a particularly good instance of the advantage 
gained by performing TJie Messiah as Handel wrote it, 
and not as other people think he ought to have written 
it. Mozart's wind parts, so beautiful in themselves and 
so utterly inappropriate to the subject, do not, as 
Rockstro truly observed, suggest darkness at all, but 
rather an enchanted atmosphere of soft golden light ; 

^ whereas Handel's unison passages for strings and 
bassoons give a picture of a people groping its way 
through the blackness of night, to which music affords 
no parallel for force and intensity. " For unto us a child 
is born " is another of the choruses that owes its birth 
to one of the Italian duets already mentioned, and the 
process of its development deserves the most careful 
study. Here again those who have only heard it 
caricatured in Mozart's version know nothing of Handel's 
real meaning. Mozart's added brass not only ruins the 
effect of Handel's skilfully contrived climax in this 
particular chorus, but defeats the design of the whole 
oratorio. " For unto us " is the climax of the prophetic 
section, but it is still prophecy, not fulfilment. Handel 
carefully reserved his trumpets until the following 
section, just as he reserved the soprano voice to lend 
brightness to the advent of the promised Messiah. It is 
curious that Mozart, of all people in the world, should 


have missed this important point, since he did very much 
the same thing in Don Giovanni, reserving his trombones 
to add impressiveness to the supernatural terrors of the 
closing scenes. 

In the Pastoral Symphony and the following numbers 
we come nearer to drama than in any other part of The 
Messiah. The birth of Christ is not described, but we 
are taken to the fields where the shepherds abode by 
night, and we listen with them to the angelic communica- 
tion. The climax is contrived with Handel's usual care 
and skill. The lovely Pastoral Symphony paints the 
tranquil scene in colours the most delicate and subtle. 
It is worth noticing that Handel, true to his principle of 
keeping to low tones in the orchestration of The Messiah, 
chose not to employ the traditionally pastoral hautboys 
in this movement. The entry of the soprano voice, so 
long delayed, strikes on the ear with a clarion note of 
exaltation, and through the chain of recitatives that 
follow — which cost Handel a great deal of trouble before 
he arrived at the final form — the excitement grows with* 
each bar until the angelic choir bursts in with its jubilant 
cry of " Glory to God," accompanied by the trumpets 
that now are heard for the first time. The glitter and 
sparkle of this chorus is astonishing. Here in good 
truth are the " voices that seem to shine " of which the 
old Elizabethan poet wrote, while the thrilling notes of 
the trumpets and the rushing passages for the violins 
seem to throw open the skies and give wondrous glimpses 
of celestial radiance beyond. Mozart's treatment of 
Handel's orchestration in this chorus is so incredible as 
to raise a serious doubt whether the accompaniments 
traditionally ascribed to him can possibly be by his hand. 
Not only did he completely spoil the effect of the entry 


of the trumpets by adding trumpet parts to " For unto 
us," but in " Glory to God " he actually cut out Handel's 
trumpet parts and wrote others of his own, leaving the 
voices in the opening bars supported only by strings and 
wood and reserving the trumpets until the words, " and 
peace on earth." The close of the chorus, with its ex- 
quisite diminuendo as the angels gradually disappear, is 
another characteristically Handelian passage, which may 
possibly have suggested to Wagner the close of his 
Lohengrin prelude where the angels who have brought the 
Holy Grail to earth disappear in the trackless blue, and 
indeed the whole number is a shining instance of Handel's 
extraordinary command of picturesque effect. The 
flashing soprano air, " Rejoice greatly, O daughter of 
Zion," is a fine example of the legitimate use of coloratura, 
to which the serene loveliness of the passage, " He shall 
speak peace unto the heathen," forms a perfect contrast. 

In a very different vein is the succeeding air, " He 
shall feed His flock," in which Christ's earthly mission 
of comfort and consolation is painted in music whose 
infinite tenderness expresses, as only the greatest of all 
musicians could express it, the wonderful secret of 
Christianity, the charm that won the world from the 
radiant gods of Greece and taught it to bow at the feet 
of the Good Shepherd gathering the lambs with His 
arms and carrying them in His bosom. Never till Jesus 
Christ was born had the conception of a God of Pity 
dawned upon the world, and never till Handel wrote 
The Messiah had music clothed with her conquering 
magic the figure of the Divine Comforter whose message 
is to them that labour and are heavy laden.^ Not alto- 

* It has often been stated that the practice of allotting the first section of 
"He shall feed His flock" to a contralto and the second to a soprano is of 


gether worthy of what has gone before, for all its rich 
musical beauty, is the chorus, " His yoke is easy," which 
brings the first part to a close. It is yet another adapta- 
tion from the Italian duets, and carries the mark of its 
origin in the curious opening phrase, which, however 
appropriate to the flowers laughing in the sunlight, to 
which it was first applied, is singularly ill adapted to 
the yoke that Christ laid upon His people. 

The second part of The Messiah brings us to the 
passion of Christ, but the librettist, true to the spirit of 
the work, has carefully avoided any reference to the 
physical side of the tragedy, insisting rather on its inner 
meaning. We are bidden to contemplate not the bodily 
sufferings of Jesus, but the mystery of the atonement. 
It is not the human Christ, scourged, stricken and 
crucified, that is put before us, but the Lamb of God 
that taketh away the sins of the world. The solemn 
opening chorus, breathing the tragedy of infinite loneliness 
in its austere beauty, leads into the famous " He was 
despised," in which the note of utter desolation is still 
further emphasised. It is curious to note how the well- 
modem origin, and a defiance of Handel's original intention. This, how- 
ever, is not so ; in fact, if the MS. notes in the copy of the original libretto 
now in the British INIuseum are to be relied on, the air was sung in this way 
at the first performance of The Messiah. It is true that in the autograph the 
whole of the air is in the key of B flat, but the Dublin MS. contains both 
versions. The version now used is unquestionably an improvement upon 
that given in the autograph. The device of giving the earthly message of 
comfort to a contralto and its celestial application to a soprano a fourth 
higher is nothing less than a stroke of genius, while the change to the key 
of F is a great relief to the ear, which would otherwise resent the monotony 
of three long pieces in the key of B flat. Possibly, too, a severely practical 
reason may be at the bottom of the transposition, for if only one soprano 
soloist were available, it would be too much to expect her to pass without any 
interval from the briUiant coloratura of "Rejoice greatly" to the suave 
caniabile phrases of " He shall feed His flock." 


meaning persons who chose to embroider Handel's score 
with additional accompaniments contrived to ignore his 
obvious intentions on every possible occasion. In the 
thirty-third bar of this air, Handel, who well knew the 
majesty of silence, left a pause of half a baj" before the 
entry of the unaccompanied voice. This pause Mozart 
filled up with meaningless chords, while Franz, not to 
be outdone in tastelessness and stupidity, actually added 
a passage for the clarinet, anticipating the vocal phrase 
and completely robbing it of its marvellous dignity and 
pathos. The wonderful second part of " He was despised " 
(almost invariably omitted at performances in England) 
adds a touch of poignancy hy a reference to the actual 
sufferings of Christ, and so leads us on to the almost 
intolerable anguish of " Surely He hath borne our griefs." 
After this climax of emotion some relief was necessary, 
and Handel, whose artistic instinct was Athenian in its 
subtlety, relieves the tension with a chorus of purely 
musical interest, " And with His stripes we are healed " — 
just as Euripides in his Troades soothed the overtaxed 
feelings of his audience, after the terrible scene in which 
Astyanax is torn from Andromache's arms, with the 
purely sensuous beauty of the famous Salamis chorus. 
I have myself no very great admiration for " And with 
His stripes," but I recognise its value in the picture. 

" All we like sheep " is a picture painted in Handel's 
broadest manner. The colour is positively hurled at 
the canvas. But the result is colossal. The sheep 
wandering without a shepherd seem to have the whole 
world for their pasture, and the tremendous coda, in which 
the promise of atonement is thundered forth, seems to be 
written upon the skies for all the nations to read. 

We now exchange the general for the particular, and 


the libretto, leaving the purely epical treatment of the 
atonement, leads us as it were to the foot of the cross. 
Yet even here the physical side of Christ's passion is left 
out of sight ; it is the contrast between His mental agony 
and the scoffs of the crowd of unbelievers that forms 
the subject of the picture. Similarly, the actual facts of 
the resurrection and ascension are barely hinted at, the 
triumph of the Saviour over death and the grave and 
His ascent to heaven amidst throngs of chorusing angels 
being suggested rather than described in the two beautiful 
airs, " But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell," and 
" Thou art gone up on high," and in the accompanying 
choruses, " Lift up your heads," and " Let all the angels 
of God worship Him." 

The libretto then turns to the evangelisation of the 
world by the apostles and their followers. The opening 
number of this section, "The Lord gave the word, great 
was the company of the preachers," is far from being 
one of the most impressive choruses in The Messiah, 
but it is technically interesting to the Handelian student 
as an instance of Handel's ingenious manner of working 
up old material. The opening notes at once recall the 
thrilling opening of the chorus, " He spake the word," in 
Israel in Egypt, and the device for expressing the count- 
less multitude of preachers is borrowed from the music 
illustrating "the busy hum of men," in L Allegro. The 
following air, " How beautiful are the feet," gave Handel 
more trouble than anything else in the oratorio. Numerous 
versions of it exist in numerous forms, and it is character- 
istic of the composer that he finally decided upon the 
simplest of them all. But the well-known saying of 
Paesiello, questo semplice com' e difficile, is truer of Handel's 
music than of that to which it was originally applied. It 


is his simplest things that are most effectually beyond 
the reach of imitators. 

The chorus, " Their sound is gone out into all lands," 
was an afterthought added to the work after the first 
performance, and is the only number in The Messiah 
that has independent parts for hautboys. Not only in 
this is it remarkable. To it as justly as to anything 
that Handel wrote can the epithet romantic be justly 
applied. The long sweeping phrases that paint the flight 
of the good tidings over land and sea have a soaring 
freedom of utterance that gives a character to this chorus 
distinct from anything else in Tlie Messiah. 

So far we have traced the spread of the gospel, but 
now comes a picture of the vain wrath of the heathen 
who flout its message, in the turbulent energy of the bass 
air, " Why do the nations so furiously rage together ? " 
and the succeeding chorus, " Let us break their bonds 
asunder." But the divine vengeance follows closely. 
The impotent strivings of pagan insolence are crushed 
in the splendidly vigorous " Thou shalt break them in 
pieces," and the whole earth joins in a paean of triumph 
// over the final victory of Christianity in the world-famous 
"Hallelujah." Familiar as the "Hallelujah" chorus is, 
it is often profoundly misunderstood, particularly by 
those who have instituted comparisons between it and 
the " Sanctus " of Bach's Mass in B minor. The two 
compositions have nothing in common. Li the " Sanctus " 
we hear the voices of the celestial choir, chanting the 
praise of the Omnipotent, and casting down their crowns 
upon the crystal sea. The '■ Hallelujah " chorus, on the 
other hand, is essentially of the earth earthy. Its place 
in The Messiah proves incontestably that it is a human 
N song of rejoicing. " The kingdom of this world," it cries, 


"is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." 
We must wait until the close of the oratorio to hear the 
anthem of those which have come out of great tribula- 
tion and washed their robes and made them white in 
the blood of the Lamb. 

The third part of the oratorio deals with the resurrec- 
tion of the body and the life of the world to come. 
After the multitudinous thunders of the "Hallelujah" 
chorus a marvellous effect of contrast is gained by the 
austere simplicity of " I know that my Redeemer liveth," . 
in which the chaste purity of the soprano voice, supported 
by a studiously unadorned accompaniment, suggests a 
cry of faith and hope rising from a world of doubt and 
darkness. The air is one of Handel's profoundest inspira- 
tions, but those who know it only when choked by 
additional accompaniments, can never have grasped its 
true meaning. To take but one instance, it is not until 
Mozart's intrusive viola part has been removed that the 
full force of the setting of "the first fruits of them that 
sleep " can be properly appreciated. Then and not till 
then is Handel's violoncello part properly heard, pulsating 
through the violins and organ with a strange throb of 
expectation, which tells in a language plainer than words 
of the sure and certain hope that lives even in death. 

In the chain of brief choruses that follows, "Since by 
man came death, by man came also the resurrection of 
the dead," Handel contrasts the old and new dispensa- 
tions with startling force, borrowing harmonies and 
cadences from the music of old time to emphasize the 
archaic dogmas of the Law, and leaving the unaccom- 
panied voices of the chorus to tell of the old Adam and 
his death, while the sudden blaze of the orchestra 
illuminates the new Christ and His resurrection. But 


before the promised life is won the mysteries ~ of death 
and judgment must be faced. The trumpet-call of doom 
sounds in the stately recitative and air, " Behold I tell 
you a mystery," and " The trumpet shall sound," and 
in the succeeding duet, " O death, where is thy sting ? " 
leading into the chorus, " But thanks be to God," death 
is swallowed up in victory. The last note of triumphant 
faith sounds in the rarely heard air, " If God be for us," 
and in the final chorus, " Worthy is the Lamb," the 
Christian is at last in the presence of his Maker. It is 
only necessary to compare " Worthy is the Lamb " with 
, the " Hallelujah " chorus to realise the difference in 
1 atmosphere between the two. The "Hallelujah" chorus 
is an earthly song of praise, in which the thousand throats 
of humanity unite to hymn the triumph of their Lord, 
but in " Worthy is the Lamb " we hear the voices of the . 
redeemed. Even here the voice of the devil's advocate 
is heard, pointing out how Handel lacks the spirituality 
of Bach, how far, in short, " Worthy is the Lamb " is 
beneath the great " Sanctus " in the B minor Mass as an 
, expression of rapturous exaltation. In a certain sense 
i this is true. Bach was unquestionably a more spiritually 
I minded, or, as we now say, a more religious man than 
I Handel. When he wrote the " Sanctus " he was rapt 
away from earth, and stood in spirit among the harpers 
harping with their harps beside the sea of glass, and 
joined his voice to theirs, Handel's feet are always upon 
solid earth. His imagination opened all portals, but he 
passed none. When he wrote the " Hallelujah " chorus 
he " did think he saw heaven opened and the great God 
Himself," but he was not, like Bach, caught up in spirit 
to the heaven that he beheld. Handel was an artist 
rather than a seer. While Bach was in the midst of his 


own imaginings, Handel contemplated the beatific vision 
from afar. The method of the one was subjective, of 
the other objective. Thus, in a word, must The Messiah 
as a whole be judged. It is a work of pure imagination, 
and to pretend that it is a record of Handel's private 
emotions is to misunderstand both the man and his 
genius. There was a good deal more of Titian than of 
Fra Angelico in Handel. For the rapture of spiritual 
ecstasy that animates the work of the pious Frate we 
ask of Handel in vain, but instead he gives us an all- 
embracing sympathy for every manifestation of human 
energy, that lifts his work far above sects and dogmas 
and makes it the common property of all mankind. 


THE production of The Messiah was a turning-point 
in Handel's career as a composer of oratorios. 
It marks the close of what we may call his first or ex- 
perimental period. Handel's first six oratorios all differ 
markedly in form. He seems to have been conducting 
a series of experiments, without being able to make up 
his mind as to which form of oratorio was best suited 
to his genius. Esther was originally a masque, frankly 
intended for theatrical performance, though its revision 
in 1734 naturally brought it more into the shape of 
oratorio. Deborah is an epic pure and simple. In 
Athaliah there is a return to the dramatic style, which 
is carried still further in Saul. Israel and Tlie Messiah, 
on the other hand, are more definitely epical in treatment 
than Deborah. With The Messiah Handel's experiments 
ceased. After producing his two epical masterpieces 
he returned to the dramatic style of Satil, to which 
he adhered for the rest of his life. The reason for 
his decision is not far to seek. Handel was eminently 
practical, and his decision to abandon the purely epical 
style was probably due in great measure to the com- 
parative failure of Israel and, in England if not in Ireland, 
of The Messiah. Within due limits, he was fully alive 


to the wisdom of consulting popular taste, and doubtless 
he recognised as clearly as his audiences that the emotions 
of human beings, of like passions with ourselves, were a 
good deal more interesting as a subject for artistic treat- 
ment than abstract discussions of the dogmas of theology. 
At any rate, for the rest of his life he made no more 
excursions into purely epical oratorio. The form that 
he finally adopted has a good deal in common with 
Greek tragedy. The attitude and functions of the chorus 
are those of interested and sympathetic spectators who 
rarely if ever take part in the action, but punctuate the 
various scenes with choral odes of a meditative or gnomic 
cast, often deducing a wholesome moral from the events 
enacted before their eyes. The long set speeches which 
are so important a feature of the Greek drama correspond 
more or less accurately to the stately airs of Handelian 
oratorio, while the more rapid dialogue or stichomythia 
is represented by recitative. Samson, founded as it is 
upon Milton's Sajfison Agonistes, which was written in 
avowed imitation of an Athenian tragedy, is a particularly 
fine instance of the oratorio-form that Handel finally 
accepted. In dignity of style it yields to none of Handel's 
works, while its dramatic power and the striking contrasts 
of character in which it abounds give it a human interest 
which is necessarily absent from the works conceived in 
a more abstract vein. Newburgh Hamilton's libretto is 
a more than tolerable piece of work. He knew his 
Milton well, and besides making free use of Samson 
Agonistes, he levied occasional contributions upon several 
of Milton's other poems, including the Odes " On the 
Nativity," " On the Passion," "On Time," and "At a solemn 
Musick," the " Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester," 
and the translations of the Psalms. The result is a rather 


surprising piece of patchwork, in which Hamilton's very- 
prosaic muse cuts a poor figure in her august company, 
though the pedestrian numbers of the poetaster are to 
some extent atoned for by the skill with which the 
libretto is put together. A skilful piece of work it 
unquestionably is, and it is to be believed that Handel 
turned with no little satisfaction from the austere abstrac- 
tion of TJie Messiah to the varied passions and pulsing life 
of Samson. What we may call the background of the 
work, the contrast between the idolatrous frivolities of 
heathendom and the august solemnity of the worship of 
the one true God, was often treated by Handel, but 
never with more consummate skill than in Samson. The 
Philistine revels are painted in the most glowing colours 
and with a special touch of light-hearted and almost 
childlike gaiety that differentiates them from Handel's 
other excursions into the high places of paganism. In 
striking contrast are the nobly dignified choruses allotted 
to the Israelites, which are very far from being the 
merely conventional expressions of respectable piety to 
which in his later oratorios Handel sometimes con- 
descended. On the contrary, many of them have a 
character peculiarly their own — a kind of rapturous 
exaltation which is very difficult to define in words. 
This quality I find particularly in the closing chorus, 
** Let their celestial concerts all unite," which, beginning 
rather dully, seems midway to be touched by some 
divine fire and to be uplifted into strange regions of 
spiritual ecstasy, and still more markedly in "Then round 
about the starry throne," a chorus on which, if I were 
condemned to the extremely difficult and unsatisfactory 
task of picking out one thing of Handel's as superior to 
all else, my choice, would, I think, alight. Samson is, I 


think, the most personal of Handel's oratorios, that of 
which the subject appealed most strongly to him, and 
into which he put most of himself. It is not so much 
that his own life was one long war against Philistines, or 
that he shared the hero's bodily affliction, though it is 
quite possible that at the time when he was writing 
Samson he may have had premonitory symptoms of his 
approaching blindness. The reason I believe, at the risk 
of being thought fanciful, to lie at the roots of Handel's 
character. We know but little of Handel's private life, 
but everything that has been handed down with regard 
to it points to his having been a man of singular personal 
purity. In his time obscenity of language and unchastity 
of life were regarded as the most venial of sins, but from 
the typical faults of the age Handel was entirely free, and 
the disgust with which he regarded the sensuality that he 
saw rampant around him is, I think, to be read in Samson 
by those that have eyes to see. I have already pointed 
out how fond Handel was of fixing on a word or a phrase 
and making it the text on which to ground a discourse. 
In " Then round about the starry throne " he seizes upon 
the words, " from all this earthly grossness quit," and 
turning as it were with loathing from the sordid and 
sensual amours of Samson and Delilah, he lifts his voice 
in a triumphant paean in praise of chastity. It is difficult 
to describe the extraordinary ecstasy of this chorus. The 
music seems to glow with a white heat of rapture. There 
is nothing else like it in Handel, nor indeed in any one 
else. But the interest of Samson is far from ending here. 
The various characters of the drama are sketched with 
a masterly touch. Samson, the blind hero, is probably 
the most carefully studied figure in the whole range of 
Handel's oratorios. In him pathos and dignity are 


mingled with an art that is beyond praise, and the flashes 
of the old fire that leap up from the ashes of despair give 
a wonderfully vivid touch to the character. 

Micah, a figment of the librettist, is merely an excuse 
for the contralto solos, but the other personages are all 
happily drawn. Delilah, with her false beguiling, forms 
an admirable foil to the reverend figure of Manoah, whose 
music is a shining example of Handel's unequalled 
appreciation of the majesty and pathos of old age. The 
bitterness of unavailing sorrow was never set to more 
piteous accents than the close of the air, " Thy glorious 
deeds," nor has the tender sympathy of a father's love 
ever found truer or moving expression than in the 
beautiful " How willing my paternal love." In a very 
different vein is the masterly sketch of the Philistine 
giant Harapha, whose braggart cowardice is drawn with 
amazing boldness and vigour in the famous air, " Honour 
and arms." 

Samson is more familiar to modern hearers than the 
majority of Handel's oratorios, but students should be 
warned that the abbreviated version now usually per- 
formed not only omits a great deal of fine music, but is 
arranged in a very happy-go-lucky manner, indeed the 
effect of several scenes is seriously marred by remorseless 
mutilation. Thus the omission of the solo, " To song and 
dance," deprives the ensuing chorus of much of its mean- 
ing, and the disappearance of the recitatives in the 
marvellous funeral scene at the close of the work, a 
masterpiece second only to the corresponding section of 
Saul, obscures Handel's carefully studied design, and, by 
omitting what we may call the stage-directions, robs the 
scene of much of its picturesqueness. 

The victory of Dettingen in 1743 drew Handel for 


the moment from his oratorios. The Te Deuni and 
Anthem that he wrote to celebrate the triumphs of 
George 11. are in the sonorous and splendid manner of 
his earlier Coronation anthems. The Te Deum in 
particular was extravagantly admired and praised during 
Handel's lifetime, and in public estimation it took the 
place till then held by the Te Detim that he had written 
in honour of the Peace of Utrecht thirty years before. 
Its pomp and glitter are now a little tarnished by time 
but it remains a fine specimen of ringing Handelian 

Semele, Handel's next work, carried him to very 
different fields. Congreve's libretto had been published 
in 1720, described as an opera, but there seems no 
reason to suppose that Handel intended his work for 
stage performance. In Semele he put off to a great extent 
his " big bow-wow " manner, and produced a work which 
has a good deal more in common with Acis and Galatea 
than with any of the sacred or semi-sacred oratorios. There 
is the same lightness of touch, the same ease and gaiety 
of inspiration, and the same sunny background of the 
fresh, laughing, pagan life of old Greece. The choruses 
are as a rule slighter in construction than was Handel's 
wont, and many of them are founded upon sparkling 
dance measures. The ravishing love-chorus, " Now Love, 
that everlasting boy," is described as alia Hornpipe, and 
" Endless pleasure " is a lively gavotte. There is not 
much scope for characterisation in Semele. Juno is un- 
questionably the most striking figure in the work. Her 
jealous fury is painted in vivid colours, and her spiteful 
little air, " Above measure," gives a deliciously feminine 
touch to her grim personality. The other characters — 
the amorous Jupiter, the voluptuous Semele, and a host 


of minor figures — are less interesting on the whole, but 
the music of the drowsy god Somnus is very beautiful, 
and indeed Semele is full of charming songs, many of 
which, such as Semele's " O sleep, why dost thou leave 
me," and Jupiter's " Where'er you walk," are still famous. 
The score of Semele contains many of Handel's 
characteristically picturesque touches. The storm chorus, 
" Avert these omens," is a brilliant piece of descriptive 
writing, and in another chorus later in the work the 
curiously realistic setting of the words, " All our boasted 
fire is lost in smoke," is very interesting. One of the 
entr'actes paints the sleep of Somnus effectively, and 
another gives a vivid picture of Juno's flight from Samos, 
while the passage for drums illustrating Jupiter's oath 
gives the lie to the often - repeated statement that 
Beethoven was the first to raise the drum to the rank 
of a solo instrument. 

It is easy to believe that so whole-hearted a pagan as 
Handel enjoyed to the full the momentary escape that 
Semele gave him from sacred subjects, and that he returned 
to oratorio with no very great gusto. At any xdle, Joseph is 
one of his least inspired efforts. To the present generation 
it is almost entirely unknown. It is the only one of Handel's 
oratorios that has never been published in vocal score, 
and though it is said to have been repeatedly performed 
in Berlin during the nineteenth century, there is no record 
of it having been given publicly in England since the 
death of the composer, though the fine chorus, " Blest be 
the man," has been heard more than once at the Handel 
Festival. The greater part of the music scarcely leaves 
the conventional track which Handel was now beginning 
to tread with somewhat mechanical steps, yet Joseph 
has its fine moments. There are several choruses of 


majestic dignity, and the wedding music is appropriately 
festive and jubilant. Here and there, too, occur gems of 
melody in Handel's freshest manner, such as the exquisite 
pastoral, " The peasant tastes the sweets of life," and the 
graceful duet, " What's sweeter than a new-blown rose." 
But the finest music in JosepJi is concerned with the 
erring brothers. The guilty Simeon has a splendidly 
dramatic scena, and the recognition scene is handled with 
a masterly touch. But as a whole Joseph is scarcely 
worthy of the hand that a few years before had written 

The success of Scinele tempted Handel to turn once 
more to Greek mythology, and his next work was 
Hercules, an adaptation by Thomas Broughton of 
Sophocles's noble traged}-, Tlie Women of Trachis. 
Hercules stands in the front rank of Handel's works. In 
dramatic power and masterly handling of character it 
is inferior to nothing that he wrote. In style it leans to 
opera rather than to oratorio. The choruses are com- 
paratively few, and though striking in their kind depart 
widely as a rule from the accepted oratorio standard. 
The most remarkable of them are " Jealousy, infernal 
pest," a curious study in musical psychology, and the 
love-chorus, " Wanton God of amorous fire," which, though 
perhaps less engaging than the delicious " Now Love, 
that everlasting boy" in Seniele, proves up to the hilt 
that Handel, old bachelor as he was, knew uncommonly 
well what he was writing about.^ 

^ In Samuel Butler's notebooks there is a characteristic comment on the 
chorus, "Tyrants now no more shall dread," sung when the news of 
Hercules's death is announced, which I venture to quote: "The music to 
this chorus is written from the tyrants' point of view. This is plain from 
the jubilant defiance with which the chorus opens, but becomes still plainer 
when the magnificent strain to which he has set the words, 'all fear of 


But it is in the solo music that the real strength of 
Hercules lies. The character of Dejanira is elaborated 
with equal vigour and subtlety. Her changing moods 
are mirrored in music that gives its true value to every 
nuance of feeling. We see her first lamenting the absence 
of her lord in the pathetic air, "The world, when day's 
career is done," a melody of yearning beauty to which 
strange harmonies give an added poignancy. The news 
of Hercules's approach banishes her sorrow, and her new- 
found happiness breaks forth in the light-hearted strains 
of " Begone, my fears." The arrival of Hercules, ac- 
companied by the captive princess lole, sows the seeds 
of jealousy in Dejanira's bosom. Then follows an inter- 
punishment is o'er,' bursts upon us. Here he flings aside all considerations 
save that of the gospel of doing whatever we please without having to pay 
for it. He remembers himself, however, shortly, and becomes almost 
puritanical over ' The world's avenger is no more.' Here he is quite proper. 
From a dramatic point of view Handel's treatment of these words must be 
condemned for reasons in respect of which Handel is rarely at fault. It 
puzzles the listener, who expects the words to be treated from the point of 
view of the vanquished slaves, not from that of the tyrants. There is no 
pretence that those particular tyrants are not so bad as ordinary tyrants, nor 
those particular vanquished slaves not so good as ordinary vanquished slaves, 
and unless this has been made clear in some way it is dramatically de 
rigueur that the tyrants should come to grief, or be about to come to grief. 
The hearer should know which way his sympathies are expected to go, and 
here we have the music dragging one way and the words the other. 

' ' Nevertheless we pardon the departure from the strict rules of the game, 
partly because of the welcome nature of good tidings so exultantly 
announced to us about all fear of punishment being over, and partly because 
throughout the music is so much stronger than the words that we lose sight 
of them almost entirely. Handel probably wrote as he did from a profound, 
though perhaps unconscious, perception of the fact that even in his day 
there was a great deal of humanitarian nonsense talked, and that after all 
the tyrants were generally quite as good sort of people as the vanquished 
slaves. Having begun on this tack, it was easy to throw morality to the 
winds when he came to the words, ' all fear of punishment is o'er.' " 


view with lole, culminating in the bitter irony of " When 
beauty sorrow's livery wears." Later comes a long and 
carefully wrought scene with Hercules opening with a 
masterly song, " Resign thy club," the biting sarcasm of 
which is set to music of extraordinary force, and lead- 
ing into the wonderful lament, " Cease, ruler of the 
day, to shine," which paints the anguish of a wounded 
heart in the most moving colours. But all else 
pales before the tremendous closing scena, " Where shall 
I fly ? " in which the wretched woman, torn by terror 
and remorse, strives to hide her guilty head from the 
vengeful Furies that encompass her. The concentrated 
horror of this passage, wrought as it is to a climax of 
amazing power, can hardly be paralleled in the whole 
range of Handel's works. By the side of Dejanira the 
other characters of the drama sink into comparative 
insignificance. Hercules, a typical hero, bluff and beefy, 
is only interesting in his final agony, which is a page of 
poignant drama. The gentle lole forms a graceful foil 
to the passion-tossed Dejanira. Though sketched with a 
light touch she is far from being a merely colourless 
ingenue. Her beautiful air, " My father," has power as 
well as pathos, while the scene in which she " chaffs " 
Hyllus is delightfully arch and vivacious. Exquisite, too, 
is the air, " My breast with tender pity swells," in which 
she endeavours to calm the frenzy of the stricken 
Dejanira. After the wild ravings of the guilty princess, 
the suave accents of lole fall like balm upon the ear. 
The contrast is one of a kind in which Handel specially 
delighted, and he has here treated it with a magical 
touch ; but Hercules is throughout full of Handel's finest 
workmanship, and it is curious that it should be 
so little known. Present-day critics, who are always 

3 1 2 HANDEL 

on the look out for " modern " effects in the works of 
the classical masters, would find much in He^xides to 
interest them. In particular, it is worth while to call 
attention to the curious little symphony that precedes 
the third act, a piece of primitive programme music 
describing the agony of Hercules in the most realistic 

With Belshazsar Handel returned once more to the 
Old Testament and his trusty Jennens. Belshazzar is in 
his stateliest style, abounding in fully developed choruses, 
and trusting but little to dramatic interest or play of 
character. Of its kind it is a fine example. Handel 
rarely surpassed the massive grandeur of such choruses 
as " By slow degrees the wrath of God," " See from his 
post Euphrates flies," and " Sing, O heavens," to name 
but a few out of many. In a very different vein is the 
mocking chorus of Babylonians, who from the height of 
their impregnable walls deride the vain efforts of the 
besiegers below — a passage brimming over with that 
peculiarly ironic humour which was characteristic of 
Handel. Admirable, too, is the whole scene of Belshazzar's 
feast, the insolent arrogance of the king, the drunken 
chorus of his lords — one of the most " unbuttoned " 
things Handel ever wrote, and full of effects that nobody 
would dream of looking for in eighteenth-century music 
— and finally the apparition of the hand and the writing 
on the wall. This incident is treated with remarkable 
power, the terrified cries of the king, the broken utterances 
of the chorus, and the curiously descriptive orchestration 
all contributing to the general effect. There are many 
other interesting points in Belshazzar. Some of the solos 
are in Handel's finest manner, notably the solemn " Great 
God, who yet but darkly known," which in some 


mysterious way conveys an impression of the awe felt by 
a heathen in the presence of an unknown God, and the 
splendid accompanied recitative, " Thus saith the Lord," 
a particularly fine instance of Handel's employment of a 
ground-bass, not, as was so often the case in Purcell's 
time, merely as an excuse for a meaningless display of 
musical ingenuity, but for the purpose of expressing 
a definite poetical idea, in this case the sureness of 
the Divine support. I must not forget the overture, 
a very fine piece of programme music, painting in 
the most picturesque and forcible manner the contrast 
between the wild turbulence of the heathen and the 
steady faith of the worshippers of God ; nor the 
curious little instrumental movement, marked in the 
autograph as " Allegro postilions," which describes Bel- 
shazzar's messengers riding off post-haste in search of 
the wise men who were to interpret the writing on the 

The Occasional Oratorio^ hastily put together to 
celebrate the repulse of the Young Pretender, can hardly 
be classed as an oratorio in the ordinary sense of the 
word. It is rather an anthem on an unusually extended 
scale, being nothing but a string of texts from the Psalms 
interspersed with songs, and boasting only the most 
shadowy apology for a design. Handel used a good deal 
of old music in it, and of the new numbers hardly one 
reaches his best standard, except perhaps the famous 
overture, which through its stirring march has become 
familiar to many who have but the vaguest idea what the 
occasion was that called it forth. Handel is usually 
supposed to have lived before the days of " local colour," 
but in one of the songs in the Occasional Oratorio^ " When 
warlike ensigns wave on high," there occurs what looks 


suspiciously like an imitation of the bagpipes, illustrating 

the words : — 

" The frighted peasant sees his field 
For corn an iron harvest yield ; 
No pasture now the plains afford, 
And scythes are straightened into swords," 

which very possibly may be intended as a sly reference 
to Prince Charlie's southern march, and to the apparition 
of the Highland clansmen in the fertile meadows of the 

Jjidas MaccahcBus was in every way a nobler tribute 
to the victor of Culloden than the Occasional Oratoj^io. 
Its martial ardour has endeared it to many generations 
of Englishmen, and it is still one of the most popular of 
Handel's oratorios. This, however, is by no means the 
same as saying that it is one of the best. As a matter of 
fact it is inferior to many far less famous works. It is 
totally devoid of anything like characterisation, and its 
subject ties it down to the expression of none but the 
simplest emotions of joy and grief, so that with all its 
directness and vigour it tends decidedly to monotony. 
What is worse is, that in Judas, more than in any of his 
other oratorios, Handel lies open to the charge of writing 
clap-trap. There are magnificent things scattered over 
the score of Judas, superb choruses like " We never will 
bow down," " Fall'n is the foe," and " Sion now her head 
shall raise," and a few solo numbers of rare beauty, such 
as " Pious orgies " and " O lovely peace," but there is far 
too much music of the type of " Sound an alarm," and 
" The Lord worketh wonders," for which the best that 
can be said is that their energy makes some amends for 
lack of inspiration. 

Handel himself seems to have been fully alive to the 


inferiority of Judas. His observation upon " See the 
conquering hero comes" (though this was subsequently 
borrowed from Joshua) has already been quoted, and a 
further record has been preserved which amounts to a 
practical confession that he was guilty of writing down to 
the level of an uneducated taste : " A gentleman whom he 
had desired to look over Judas MaccabcBus having 
declared his opinion of it, ' Well,' said Handel, ' to be 
sure you have picked out the best songs, but you take no 
notice of that which is to get me all the money,' meaning 
the worst in the whole oratorio." As a matter of fact, 
Handel was totally lacking in the false pride that hinders 
a man from admitting his failures and deficiencies. He 
was walking one day in Marylebone Gardens with a 
reverend friend of his, named Fountayne, when the band 
struck up a piece of music. " Come, Mr. Fountayne," said 
Handel, " let us sit down and listen to this piece ; I want 
to know your opinion of it." Down they sat, and after 
some time the old parson, turning to his companion, said, 
" It is not worth listening to, it is very poor stuff." " You 
are right, Mr. Fountayne," said Handel, " it is very poor 
stuff. I thought so myself when I had finished it." The 
old gentleman, being taken by surprise, was beginning to 
apologise, but Handel assured him there was no neces- 
sity, for the music was really bad, having been com- 
posed hastily, his time for its production having been 
limited, and that the opinion given was as correct as it 
was honest.^ Handel, on the other hand, was ready to 
fight tooth and nail against what he thought was unin- 
telligent criticism. One day his librettist Morell com- 
plained that the music of one of Handel's airs did not 
suit his words, whereupon Handel flew into a passion and 

^ Smith, History of the Parish of Marylebone, 1833. 

3 1 6 HANDEL 

cried, " What, you teach me music ! The music, sir, is 
good music. It is your words is bad. Hear the passage 
again. There ! go you and make words to that music." 

Alexander Balus, though lacking in the qualities that 
captivate the vulgar ear in Judas, is in many ways a more 
remarkable work. To the musician indeed and to the 
student it is one of Handel's most interesting compositions, 
for the Oriental background tempted him to curious ex- 
periments in orchestration which often yield surprising 
results in the way of local colour. The libretto, which 
deals with the love of Alexander Balus, the King of Syria, 
for Cleopatra, the daughter of Ptolemy Philometor, who is 
quite a different person from the " Serpent of old Nile," 
is not particularly promising, but Handel contrived to 
infuse a good deal of life into the rather spectral characters. 
The youthful Alexander has some charming music, 
notably the delightful "O Mithra," one of the freshest 
and most ardent love-songs ever written, with a curious 
pulsating figure in the accompaniment which seems to 
indicate the haste of the young lover in flying to his 
mistress's feet. Cleopatra's music is among the most 
original that Handel ever produced, and seems to belong 
to a totally different world from the very conventional 
and commonplace songs in Judas Maccabcsus, From her 
opening song, " Hark, hark, he strikes the golden lyre," to 
which a curiously exotic colour is given by an accompani- 
ment of flutes, harp, and mandoline, to her marvellous 
death-song, "Convey me to some peaceful shore" — so 
different in its stoical resignation, illumined by no gleam 
of faith in a hereafter, from the rapture of exaltation with 
which a Theodora meets her doom — every note allotted 
to Cleopatra is worth careful study. One of her loveliest 
passages is a scene in the woods, in which her reverie 


among the whispering trees and murmuring brooks is 
interrupted by a band of brigands who carry her off into 
captivity, her wild cries for help dying slowly on the ear 
as she is borne away. Singularly beautiful, too, is her 
marriage duet with Alexander, " Hail, wedded love," which 
seems to breathe a strange intensity of nuptial fervour. 
The other characters are more slightly drawn, Jonathan 
is a typical Hebrew, whose music is solemn and dignified 
without possessing any specially definite features, but 
Ptolemy is cleverly sketched. There is all the smooth 
duplicity of an Oriental statesman in his opening song, 
though later he shows himself in his true colours, and 
storms and threatens in the accepted tyrannical manner. 
Few of the choruses are in Handel's stately big-wig style. 
He seems to have felt the relief of getting for once out of 
his pious groove, and in Alexander Balus his heathen are 
quite as fresh and vigorous as in Samson. There is a 
curiously barbaric ring about the opening chorus, " Flushed 
with conquest," and the wedding music is very gay and 
spirited. The finest chorus in the work, however, is " O 
calumny," which is dragged in by the hilt a propos de 
bottes, obviously because of the success of the Envy and 
Jealousy choruses in Saul and Hercules respectively, but 
oddly as it occurs is none the less a marvellous piece of 
writing, weirdly grim and gloomy in feeling, and altogether 
one of the " creepiest " things Handel ever wrote, 

Joshua seems to have been an attempt to repeat the 
popular success oi Judas Maccabceus, but like most sequels it 
fell far below its predecessor, Judas^ with all its faults, was 
eminently spirited and energetic, hut Joshua is depressingly 
flat and tame. Here and there occurs a touch of the true 
Handelian fire, as in the magnificent chorus, " Glory to 
God," in which the tottering towers and strong-cemented 

3 1 8 HANDEL 

walls of Jericho tumble to dust and ruin, and the amaz- 
ingly fresh and vigorous " See, the conquering hero comes," 
one of those brave immortal things upon which the touch 
of Time is powerless. There are delicious little bits of 
landscape-painting, too, in Joshua, such as Caleb's song, 
" Shall I in Mamre's fertile plain ? " with its wonderful 
suggestion of the far-away patriarchal life of the Old 
Testament, or the pleasant murmur of the waters in 
" While Kedron's brook," and the cool refreshing showers 
in " As cheers the sun." But some of the best songs are 
transplanted from earlier works. " O had I Jubal's lyre " 
is an adaptation of a song in a setting of the psalm 
Laudate pueri, dating from the old days at Halle, and 
" Heroes when with glory burning " is taken from 
Agrippina. On the whole, Joshua is of all the oratorios 
that upon which the lover of Handel is least inclined to 

If the flame of Handel's inspiration sank rather low 
m Joshua, it burned up as brightly as ever in Solomon and 
Susanna. Each of these two great works is a masterpiece 
in its way, yet there is hardly a point of resemblance 
between them. One of the most remarkable examples 
of Handel's versatility is his power of clothing each of 
his great choral works in an atmosphere peculiar to itself, 
and it would not be easy to find better instances of this 
than are afforded by Solomon and Susa?ina. Solomon is 
a work of pomp and circumstance. There is comparatively 
little in the libretto that calls for emotional power 
or for minute character - drawing. It is a glitter- 
ing picture of the gorgeous court of the Jewish 
monarch, set forth in a series of choruses of superb 
breadth and grandeur. The music breathes of splendour 
and magnificence. There are many touches in the oratorio 


to relieve what might otherwise become the oppressive 
gorgeousness of the general texture of the work. There 
is the delicious love-music, and one would have to ransack 
Handel's works to find a tenderer love-song than " With 
thee the unsheltered moor I'd tread," or a more voluptuous 
chorus than " May no rash intruder." Excellent, too, is 
the incident of the judgment of Solomon, in which the 
characters of the two women are contrasted with the 
utmost subtlety, and there are several little nature-pictures 
in Handel's daintiest manner, such as " Beneath the vine 
and fig-tree's shade," and " How green our fertile pastures 
look," fragrant with the charm of rippling waters and 
murmuring breezes. But the final impression of the work 
is one of rich, even barbaric, splendour. It is like a series 
of gorgeously coloured frescoes in some wondrous palace 
of the East. 

Susanna, on the other hand, is a picture of village life. 
It is painted in a scheme of quietly modulated colours. 
Many of the songs, like the Purcellian " Ask if yon 
damask rose be sweet," or the tender little love-ditty, 
" Ye verdant hills," or, most beautiful of all, the deliciously 
tuneful " Would custom melt," have almost a feeling of 
folk-music. The action of the story takes place during 
the captivity of the Jews in Babylonia, but only the 
opening chorus, written on what is practically the same 
ground-bass as that used by Purcell in Dido's death-song, 
and by Bach in the " Crucifixus " of the Mass in B minor, 
suggests anything like regret for a lost fatherland. The 
music for the most part is designedly simple in structure. 
Much of it is light, and at. times almost humorous, as in 
the pretty little chorus in which the village gossips discuss 
Susanna's trial among themselves in whispered chatter. 
The last chorus again, in which the moral of the story is 


set forth in strains of enchanting simpHcity, might well 
have served as a model to Mozart when he wrote the 
" Vaudeville " at the end of his Entfuhnmg aus dem Serail. 
Yet Susanna has its grand moments as well. " Righteous 
Heaven" is one of Handel's most stupendous choruses, 
and the scene between Susanna and the elders is treated 
with much dramatic power. The elders themselves are 
cleverly differentiated, the one sly and sentimental and 
the other violent and passionate, and Susanna's character, 
rising as she does under stress of circumstances to some- 
thing very like heroism, is drawn with consummate art. 

Theodora is a work that has never won a tithe of 
the consideration that it deserves. Handel himself 
thought very highly of it, and it is plain that he took 
unusual pains with it, and was proportionately mortified 
at its want of success. The weak point of Theodora is its 
dull libretto, one of Morell's most pedestrian productions, 
which all Handel's genius hardly sufficed to vitalise. 
The characters are the merest pasteboard, and even 
Handel could not turn them into human beings. On 
Theodora herself he expended untold pains. Many of her 
airs are exceedingly beautiful. Some of them, such as 
the great prison-scene with its curious and highly original 
little symphonies, are so elaborate as to suggest to certain 
critics that Handel had been studying Bach before writing 
Theodora. Others, like " Angels ever bright and fair," and 
*' The Pilgrim's home," are in his simplest and most 
melodious manner, but the result somehow leaves one 
cold. The other characters are no less carefully treated — 
the sympathetic Irene and the ardent Didimus, Valens the 
black-hearted tyrant, and Septimius, the " friendly, social " 
pagan, who cannot understand why people worry about 
religion instead of enjoying themselves. The music 


they are called upon to sing is often intrinsically fine, 
but one and all they are merely types ; there is no growth 
in them, and they are just the same at the close of the 
drama as at the beginning. The more generalised 
emotions of the chorus gave Handel a better chance. 
Often as he was called upon to set heathen ceremonial 
to music, he never repeated himself, and in Theodora he 
reproduced the frozen elegance of Roman ritual with 
signal success. The very Purcellian " Queen of Summer " 
is a model of clear-cut symmetry, and " Venus laughing 
from the skies " is no less perfect in its way as a picture 
of purely soulless religion. Handel's heathen are 
invariably so delightful that his Christians (or Jews) are 
often rather cast into the shade, but in TJieodo7'a they 
are very well treated. " He saw the lovely youth," which 
the composer ranked above the Hallelujah chorus in The 
Messiah, is one of Handel's masterpieces, designed with 
graphic decision, and elaborated with loving skill. Very 
remarkable, too, with its atmosphere of brooding mystery, 
is " How strange their ends," while the closing chorus, 
so different in spirit from the usual jubilant oratorio finale, 
keeps up to the end the air of peculiar distinction which 
is the special property of Theodora. In this there is a 
wonderfully characteristic Handelian touch in the sudden 
burst of exaltation at the words, " That we the glorious 
spring may know," which seems like the sun breaking 
forth at noonday to dispel the mists of melancholy that 
gather round the sombre opening of the chorus. 

The " musical interlude," The Choice of Hercules, was 
written with the eminently practical object of filling up 
the evening's programme, of which the remainder was 
supplied by Alexander's Feast. In it Handel used up a 
great deal of the incidental music that he had composed 


a few months before for Smollett's Alceste. It is one 
of the least known of his choral works, and though the 
Alceste music has been performed in recent years by the 
Handel Society, TJie Choice of Hercules is still buried in 
undeserved oblivion. It contains several lovely songs 
and one really magnificent chorus, " Virtue shall place 
thee in that blest abode," which alone should recommend 
the work to musicians. 

Jephtha worthily closed the long series of Handel's 
oratorios. It is, in a sense, the summing-up of his career, 
exhibiting as it does to a great extent in its own compass 
the diverse merits that characterise its various pre- 
decessors. Many of the airs in Jephtha have the freshness 
and sparkle of Handel's early youth, and some of its 
choruses emulate the stupendous majesty of Israel in 
Egypt and Solomo7z, while in psychological subtlety and 
fineness of character-drawing Jephtha is on a level with 
Samson. Long experience had by this time given 
Handel an extraordinary certainty of touch, and the big 
effects in Jephtha " come off" with a sort of Nasmyth- 
hammerlike inevitability. Perhaps it would be hyper- 
critical to say that this very certainty of touch occasionally 
gives an impression of something that might be called 
mechanical, but on the other hand there are many traces 
in Jephtha of a romantic feeling which is rarely met with 
in the work of a composer nearly seventy years of age. 
The subject of Jephtha is one of the most striking that 
Handel ever undertook ; it is only unfortunate that the 
librettist, in deference to the fashion of the time, thought 
it necessary to introduce a foolish and quite superfluous 
love-interest, which adds nothing to the pathos of the 
situation, and obscures the main outline of the tragedy. 
Jephtha is one of Handel's most equal and sustained 


works. There are very few of those lapses into fluent 
commonplace which disfigure some of its predecessors. 
The choruses are exceptionally strong. The Moloch 
chorus at the beginning, with its "dismal dance around 
the furnace blue," is a particularly vivid musical picture 
of heathendom, while for sheer picturesqueness Handel 
never surpassed his great seascape, " When His loud voice 
in thunder spoke," with its boisterous surges and lashing 
billows. " How dark, O Lord, are Thy decrees," is a 
masterpiece of solemn grandeur, and " Cherub and 
seraphim " soars to unaccustomed heights of pure 
romance. The solo music is even more interesting. 
Each one of the characters, save the intrusive Hamor, 
who has really nothing to do with the plot, is elaborated 
with the most loving care. Particularly striking is the 
manner in which the development of the character of 
I phis, as the librettist . chose to christen Jephtha's 
daughter, is indicated. We see her first as a light-hearted 
girl, whose youthful gaiety finds charming expression in 
the pretty Bourree, " The smiling dawn." Misfortune 
brings out the true nobility of her character. Resigna- 
tion to the will of Heaven is the note of her lovely air, 
" Happy they," and her farewell to earth, " Farewell, ye 
limpid springs," seems to rise into wondrous regions of 
rapturous ecstasy. Jephtha is a still profounder study. 
His rapid changes of mood are painted with marvellous 
skill. Unfortunately the modern trick of linking the 
recitative, " Deeper and deeper still," to the air, " Waft 
her, angels," plays complete havoc with Handel's carefully 
wrought psychology. The two numbers have really 
nothing to do with each other. The recitative paints the 
conflict of Jephtha's emotions when he realises that his vow 
is to cost his daughter her life. The air comes at a later 


stage, when anguish has given place to resignation. It 
forms the conckision of a great scena of which the opening 
movement, " Hide thou thy hated beams, O sun," touches 
the depths of gloom and despair, while the succeeding 
air, " Waft her, angels," is illumined by a ray of curious 
exaltation. The much-tried hero seems to realise in a 
dim way the wonderful conception, which was familiar to 
Greek minds, that in uttermost misery there is an element 
of beauty. Heavy fathers, as theatrical people call them, 
are common enough in Handel's oratorios, but the heavy 
mother is a rare bird. Storge is a fine specimen of the 
species, and her music is highly individual and character- 
istic. " Scenes of horror " is a very striking and dramatic 
scena, and " First perish thou " is a wonderful burst of 
passionate indignation. 

During the last years of Handel's life his blindness 
proved a serious hindrance to composition, and he wrote 
little but a few additional numbers to grace the revival 
of some of his oratorios. The merit of these proves con- 
clusively that the failure of his sight involved no corre- 
sponding failure of imaginative or technical power, indeed 
" Sion now her head shall raise," which was composed for 
a revival of Judas Maccabcsus, and is said by Burney to 
have been absolutely the last thing that Handel wrote, 
is in his stateliest and most exalted mannei-. One other 
task occupied his declining years, the revisal of his early 
oratorio, // Trionfo del Tempo e della Veritd. This work, 
it will be remembered, was written during his stay in Rome 
in 1708. It was revised and enlarged, and, still in its 
Italian dress, produced in 1737. In 1757 a translation 
of the 1737 version was made by Dr. Morell, for which 
Handel wrote several new numbers and adapted others 
from earlier works, principally from Parnasso in Festa, 


which contributed the delightfully fresh and open-air 
choruses of hunters and dryads. In its final version, there- 
fore, The Triumph of Time and Truth is uniquely interest- 
ing, as covering practically the whole course of Handel's 
activity, and it thus forms as it were a summing-up of his 
career as a musician. 

It is curious, considering over how wide an interval 
its composition extended, that the work should exhibit so 
little discrepancy of style, but the fact that it is totally 
devoid of dramatic interest, and deals for the most part 
only with the lighter side of life, naturally narrows its 
range to sharply defined limits. Nevertheless, though it 
cannot be accepted as a representative work, TJie Triumph 
of Time and TrutJi has qualities of rare distinction, and 
it is significant that several of the new numbers, such as 
the delicious minuet, " Come, live with pleasure," are at 
least as conspicuous for youthful freshness and charm as 
those that were written when the composer was scarcely 
out of his teens. 

But those whom the gods love, if they do not always 
die young, at least seem never to grow old, and it is 
pleasant to think that Handel, though bowed down by 
affliction, retained his lightness of heart and serenity of 
temperament to the end, and, like Rembrandt in his latest 
portrait, bade farewell to the world with a smiling face. 


HANDEL'S instrumental works, in spite of their 
many beauties, appeal far less strongly to the 
present generation than anything else that he wrote. The 
growth of musical form, the development of the orchestra, 
and the invention of the pianoforte have combined so 
completely to revolutionise public taste since his day, that 
a far greater mental effort is necessary to grasp Handel's 
point of view as exemplified in his sonatas and concertos 
than is the case with regard to his oratorios or even to his 
operas. To modern ears the instrumental music of the 
early eighteenth century speaks in a language that is now 
obsolete, and a certain amount of preliminary study is 
necessary before its meaning can be thoroughly grasped. 
Instrumental music has made such rapid strides since the 
days of the Georges that, though less than two hundred 
years separate Handel from Richard Strauss, they seem 
to us as far apart as is Chaucer from Browning. A some- 
what similar intellectual exercise is demanded in each 
case if the modern student desires to enter into the 
heritage bequeathed by the older master, and in Handel's 
case no less than in Chaucer's the labour of mastering the 
dialect in which he wrote brings its own reward. 

The earliest instrumental work of Handel's that has 



survived is the set of trios for two hautboys and harp- 
sichord, which is said by Chrysander to have been written 
in 1696 in the composer's eleventh year. If it was really 
written at that age it is an amazing proof of Handel's pre- 
cociousness, for though it discloses few traces of originality, 
the workmanship is skilful and singularly free from the 
weakness and irresolution of childhood. 

The advance on these boyish works shown in the 
harpsichord suites, the first set of which was published 
in 1720, is naturally very great. The latter were enorm- 
ously popular in Handel's lifetime, and many of them still 
hold their place in public estimation by the side of Bach's 
similar works. Handel's harpsichord music is admittedly 
unequal. At its worst it is the kind of fluent common- 
place that almost any composer of the time could reel off 
by the yard, but at its best it has all the great and dis- 
tinguished qualities that we admire in his choral works. 
The first set of suites is perhaps the strongest. It is full 
of good things, and there are hardly any weak places in 
it. The air with variations, which is known as " The 
Harmonious Blacksmith," is of course the most famous 
thing that Handel, or indeed anybody else, wrote for the 
harpsichord, but it is far inferior to much that surrounds it. 
The fugue that opens the E minor suite, with its three 
defiant hammer-blows, is superb, and another splendid 
movement is the " Overture " to the suite in G minor. 
Some of the AUemandes and Courantes are now getting 
a little musty, but the gigues are almost always first-rate. 
That in the suite in A is particularly jovial, and those in 
E minor and F sharp minor are very nearly as good, 
while the whole of the F major suite, with its pensive 
introduction, lively allegro, and brilliant fugue, is as fresh 
and delightful as on the day that it was written. 


The second book opens magnificently with the wonder- 
ful prelude to the suite in B flat, one of the most romantic 
things Handel ever wrote. Samuel Butler chose it as an 
illustration of the moaning of the statues in Ei'ewhon, 
and there is indeed something almost unearthly in its 
wild weird chords. The rest of the collection contains 
nothing that can be compared to this marvellous piece. 
Many of the dance movements are charmingly graceful, 
and the gigues are invariably vigorous, but the intermin- 
able variations are rather wearisome. The third book, 
which was not published during Handel's lifetime, is a 
very miscellaneous collection. Some of the pieces date 
from Handel's early youth, and others are obviously 
written for childish performers, probably for the young 
princesses or for other aristocratic performers. Far finer 
are the six fugues, which were published in 1735. They 
are shining examples of Handel's smoothly flowing 
counterpoint. Two of them he subsequently used in 
Israel in Egypt, the first as " He smote all the first-born 
in Egypt," and the fifth as " They loathed to drink of the 
waters." The fourth had already done duty in the over- 
ture to the Brockes Passion. The last of the set has a 
grave beauty which gives it a character all its own. 
Samuel Butler refers to it in his Way of All Flesh, quoting 
the subject as a suitable epitaph for " an old man who was 
very sorry for things." A better description of it could 
not be devised. 

Handel's sonatas for violin and other instruments 
accompanied by the harpsichord, though not so well 
known to musicians as his harpsichord suites, are still by 
no means forgotten. A set of twelve was published in 
1732, and others taken from various sources bring the 
total up to nineteen. At what date they were composed 


is not certainly known. Chrysander attributes the 
beautiful sonata for viola da gamba to the year 1705, since 
it is known that the gamba was a favourite instrument 
in Hamburg at that time. The hautboy sonatas may 
possibly date from still earlier times, when Handel, 
according to his own account, composed for that instru- 
ment " like a devil." The violin sonatas were very likely 
written for Dubourg, who played Handel's music at 
concerts as early as 1719,^ or perhaps for the Prince of 
Wales, who took lessons from Dubourg about 1730. 
Many of these sonatas are delightfully fresh and 
melodious. The first of the two sonatas in A is still 
popular, and those in E and D are occasionally to be 
heard in twentieth century concert-rooms. The Allegro 
of the latter is a kind of preliminary sketch for the chorus, 
" Live for ever, pious David's son," in Solomon, and in 
several other movements occur reminiscences of works 
already written or foreshadowings of those that were to 

Two sets of trios, for various combinations of instru- 
ments, published respectively in 1733 and 1739, also 
exist. The first follows the general lines of the early 
Halle set of trios, as far as form is concerned, though 
naturally with a far greater degree of technical skill and 
melodic invention. Many of these trios are indeed of 
singular beauty and expressive power. The first of the 
set, which is written for flute, violin, and harpsichord, 
has a slow movement of wonderfully tranquil loveliness 
followed by an allegro, founded upon the highly 
expressive melody associated with the words, " Why so 

^ The Daily Cotirant of i6th February 1719 refers to a new concerto, 
" compos'd by Mr. Hendel, and perform'd by Mr. Dubourg at Hickford's 
great Room in James Street." 


full of grief, O my soul," in one of the Chandos anthems, 
which is worked up to a climax of remarkable force. 
Another is a transcription of the overture to Esther^ 
ingeniously modified to suit its altered circumstances, 
while every one of the set presents some points of interest. 
The 1739 trios are rather lighter in style, dance move- 
ments being employed with greater frequency. On the 
whole they resemble the concertos in form rather than 
the earlier set of trios, and there is a more pronouncedly 
orchestral feeling about them. This is particularly the 
case with No. 4, which is an adaptation of the overture to 
Athaliak, with the addition of a Passacaglia and other 
dances, and it is difficult to believe that certain other 
movements, such as the march in the second sonata, can 
really have been intended for solo instruments. 

An interesting point about Handel's solo sonatas and 
trios, to which attention has not, I think, been sufficiently 
drawn, is their value as links in the chain of the develop- 
ment of what is called sonata-form. It is the fashion, 
nowadays, especially with critics who have never taken 
the trouble to study his works, to repeat the old parrot- 
cry that Handel did not further the advance of music in 
any respect. I have already pointed out how groundless 
is this accusation in respect of oratorio. With regard to 
chamber music it is no less false. Much of Handel's 
chamber music is, in point of form, strikingly in advance 
of his time, and it is curious that his leaning towards 
modern methods should have been so little remarked by 
historians in their investigation of the beginnings of 
sonata-form. In many of his sonatas there are move- 
ments which within a comparatively brief compass 
conform strictly to the general outlines of sonata-form. 
The second movements of two of his best known sonatas. 


those in A and D, are good instances, and the second 
movement of the sonata in C minor for flute and violin 
(Op. 7, No. i) is another. But throughout Handel's 
chamber music the tendency towards sonata-form is often 
to be traced in the most unmistakable fashion. 

Considerably more important than his chamber works 
are the concertos which Handel wrote for various com- 
binations of instruments. The concerto of the early 
eighteenth century was, it need hardly be said, a very 
different thing from the concerto of modern times. 
Handel's use of the form differs considerably from Bach's. 
Save in the case of the organ he wrote very few concertos 
for a solo instrument. The main characteristic of his 
concertos lies in the contrast between a small group of 
solo instruments, technically called the concertino, and a 
string band, called the ripieno. In his first set of Concerti 
Grossi, which were published in the year 1734, the dis- 
position of instruments varies very much. Now and then 
we get a movement in which one solo instrument pre- 
dominates, but as a rule the concertino is a group of two 
or more instruments. Thus in the first of the six con- 
certos, the concertino of the opening movement consists of 
two hautboys and a violin ; in the second movement 
two flutes are added and one of the hautboys is silent ; 
while the third movement returns to the original arrange- 
ment. These Concerti Grossi are popularly known as the 
" Hautboy " concertos, from the prominent part assigned to 
the hautboys. The title, however, is decidedly misleading 
to modern ears, as there is very little actual solo work for 
a single hautboy, save in a few isolated movements, such 
as the lovely Largo in the second concerto, and the 
Andante in the fourth. There is a more decided approx- 
imation to the modern manner of treating the solo 


instrument in a second set of Conccrti Grossi, published 
by Walsh in 1741, together with works by Veracini and 
Tartini, under the title Select Harmony^ and in a couple 
of concertos, dating from a much earlier time, which were 
published by Chrysander in vol. xxi. of his edition of 
Handel's works. The Concerti Grossi are among the most 
attractive of Handel's instrumental works. They are as a 
rule light and even gay in sentiment, the slow movements 
being usually short, and in some cases omitted altogether. 
The allegro movements are among Handel's most vigorous 
efforts, and the dance movements, of which there are not 
a few, are invariably charming. Several movements are 
familiar to those who know their Handel well, being 
adapted or transcribed from earlier works, according to 
a fashion common at the time, to which Handel was 
particularly addicted. 

The twelve " Grand " concertos for strings, which 
were written in 1739 and published in 1740, are on afar 
more imposing scale. Six of the concertos have five 
movements and four have six, and they are all planned 
upon a scale of grandeur and dignity that differentiates 
them entirely from the " Hautboy " concertos. They are 
written for strings alone, of course accompanied by the 
harpsichord, as was the universal practice in Handel's 
day, and the coficertino in each instance is composed of 
two violins and a violoncello, contrasted with the ripieno 
band of strings. With these modest materials Handel 
produced effects often of surprising grandeur, varied by 
the touches of exquisite lightness and grace. In fact, one 
of the most striking features of the " Grand " concertos is 
the varied colour and feeling which Handel, in spite of 
all limitations, contrived to infuse into them. Not only 
with regard to changes of key — a point in which he 


proved himself far more advanced than Bach — but by 
novel arrangements of the movements, he sought with 
signal success to avoid the charge of monotony so often 
levelled against works for strings alone. The ninth 
concerto is a good average specimen of Handel's treat- 
ment of the form. It opens with a magnificently solemn 
and dignified introduction, Largo, f , in F major, leading 
into a vigorous Allegro, C, in the same key. To this 
succeeds a graceful Siciliana, Larghetto, f , in D minor, 
leading into a splendidly forcible fugue in F major. 
Allegro, C. Then comes a dainty little minuet in F 
minor, f , and the concerto ends with a brilliant gigue in F 
major, ^. It is curious, considering how much popularity 
Bach's suites now enjoy, that these concertos of Handel 
should be so seldom performed. But at no time have 
they equalled in popularity the organ concertos, of which 
Burney observed that " public players on keyed instru- 
ments, as well as private, totally subsisted on these 
concertos for near thirty years." The first set of organ 
concertos was published in 1738, and the second, which 
was largely made up of arrangements of the " Grand " 
concertos, in 1740. A third set, which consisted mainly of 
original music, was published a year after Handel's death 
under the title of Op. 7. Handel's organ music is disap- 
pointing to those who come to it fresh from Bach. It 
must be remembered, however, that his organ concertos 
in their printed form represent but the skeleton, as it 
were, of the works as conceived and executed by the 
composer. His talent for improvisation was admitted by 
all who heard him to be extraordinary, and it was his 
custom to grace his concertos with long extempore 
passages, for which the printed notes served but as the 
foundation. We must bear in mind, too, the difference 


that existed in Handel's time between English and 
German organs. Until the end of the eighteenth century 
the organ in St. Paul's Cathedral, on which Handel de- 
lighted to play as a young man, was the only one in the 
country that boasted a pedal-board. In writing his organ 
concertos, therefore, Handel was compelled to restrict 
himself to the manuals, and was thus driven to compose 
in a style which, though flexible and brilliant, seems 
slight and thin by the side of the massive splendour of 
Bach. It must be further remembered that Handel's 
organ concertos, as well as those written for other instru- 
ments, were intended for concert use, whereas Bach's 
organ music was primarily dedicated to the service of the 
church. Handel's concertos formed part and parcel of 
his oratorios, which indeed first called them into being, and 
were responsible for their very existence. It is hardly 
fair, therefore, to treat them as independent works, or to 
demand from them what we find, let us say, in Haydn's 
symphonies, the earliest of which were composed about 
the time of Handel's death. Handel's main design in 
writing his concertos was to afford a pleasant relief to his 
hearers between the acts of an oratorio, to lull them with 
the sheer beauty of sound, much as Euripides used the 
perfect music of his choral odes to soothe the nerves of 
his audience, strained to bursting-point by the poignant 
emotions of a tragedy. Did we know for what context 
each concerto was designed we might trace in it an echo 
of the scenes that it neighboured. But with regard to 
most of the concertos no such tradition has survived. 
We know that the organ concerto in B flat (No. 3 of the 
J ^4 third act) was so much associated in the popular mind 
with Esther that the minuet in it was commonly known 
as the minuet in Esther, but the rest is silence. It 


would be exceedingly interesting to know something 
about the provenance of the so-called " Cuckoo and 
Nightingale" concerto (No. 2 of the second set). It is 
an adaptation of one of the " Grand " concertos, but the 
passages imitating the notes of the cuckoo and nightingale 
were added in the later version. There are very few 
instances in Handel's instrumental music of directly 
imitative music of this kind. His oratorios aad operas 
are, of course, full of it, either in the shape of dramatic 
symphonies, like those illustrating the pangs of the dying 
Hercules and the mad haste of Belshazzar's postilions, or 
as reproductions of the sights and sounds of nature in 
the accompaniments to songs. This concerto, however, 
stands as much alone among the works of Handel as 
does the Pastoral Symphony among Beethoven's, and it 
is curious that the two great composers, who had so little 
else in common, should join hands over their common 
love for the outdoor world. 

In one other point Handel may be said to have given 
a hint to Beethoven, namely, in concluding an instru- 
mental work with a chorus. In the British Museum there 
exists an autograph of the fourth organ concerto, to which 
is appended an Alleluia chorus, founded upon a theme in 
the concerto. It was written in 1735, and was used as 
the conclusion to the oratorio, // Trionfo del Tempo e 
della Veritd, which was revived in an amended form in 


The most famous instrumental work that Handel ever 
wrote is unquestionably the Water Music. It undoubtedly 
owes a good deal of its notoriety to the circumstances of 
its production,^ but its intrinsic beauty is quite sufficient 
to account for its popularity. Handel's dance music is 

1 See p. 73. 


always delightful, and the sparkling series of movements 
that he wrote for George I's water-party are in his freshest 
and gayest manner. Somewhat less interesting, though 
no less well adapted for open-air performance, is the Fire- 
works Music which he composed for the celebration of the 
Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749.^ Both works indeed 
bear convincing testimony to Handel's cleverness in 
adapting his style to the exigencies of the occasion, and 
to the forces that he had at his disposition. 

Handel's other instrumental works must be briefly 
dismissed. Reference has already been made in various 
places to the overtures and other instrumental movements 
that adorn his operas and oratorios, but a few general 
observations may find place here. Handel borrowed the 
form of overture that had been invented by Lulli and 
improved by Scarlatti, and used it with but little altera- 
tion until the close of his career. He soon left his models 
far behind. It is not too much to say that the overture 
to Alniira is finer than anything that had been written 
up to that date, and as his touch grew firmer and his 
knowledge of musical effect profounder, Handel soon 
surpassed the boyish efforts of his Hamburg days. It 
has often been said by musical historians who are in too 
great a hurry to read the works that they criticise, that 
Handel's overtures are all alike, and that one would do 
just as well as another as an introduction to any of the 
operas or oratorios. A very small amount of research 
will bring an unprejudiced student to a precisely opposite 
conclusion. I will not say that in the case of some of the 
operas which deal with similar subjects the substitution 
of one overture for another would be attended with fatal 
results. Working as he did at headlong speed, Handel 

^ See p. 200. 


had not always time or inclination for psychological 
subtlety, but as a rule it will be found that his overtures 
fit the works that they precede a good deal more closely 
than our historians suspect. Usually it is only the general 
tone of the work that is reproduced, as in the case of The 
Messiah, where the solemn reticence of the treatment is 
duly foreshadowed in the overture, or of Susanna, in which 
the overture gives a foretaste of the village life that forms 
the background of the oratorio. In other works the idea 
of a unity of atmosphere is worked out more fully. The 
overture to The Triumph of Time and Truth gives a brief 
compendium of the struggle between duty and pleasure 
that forms the theme of the oratorio — pleasure, as is usual 
with Handel, being painted in far more agreeable colours 
than her grave antagonist. The overture to the Occasional 
Oratorio sails nearer to the boundaries of programme 
music. It must be a very dull listener who does not read 
in that stirring piece the whole history of the war that 
formed Handel's subject — the mustering of troops for 
battle, the lament over the fallen, and the triumphant 
return of the victors. 

In the overture to the second act of Admcto, which 
precedes the descent of Alcestis to the shades, we get a 
striking tone-picture of the gloomy regions of death, 
extraordinarily modern in feeling, though fugal in 
structure. The overture to Deborah, again, in which 
melodies from the work itself are used, gives a complete 
and graphic picture of the struggle between the Israelites 
and their heathen foes in the manner that is usually sup- 
posed to have originated at a much later date. Enough 
has been perhaps said to show that Handel's overtures 
are by no means so monotonously uniform in style as is 
generally affirmed, and the symphonies and other instru- 


mental movements which occur in his operas and oratorios 
are no less interesting. Many of them are wonderfully 
vivid pieces of musical painting, and show Handel's genius 
in a light that is unfamiliar to modern musicians. Such 
passages as the sleep of Somnus in Seniele, and the moon- 
rise in Ariodante, to name but two instances out of many, 
form an important link in the history of programme 

Mention should be made for the sake of completeness 
of the set of dance tunes which Handel wrote, or rather 
adapted from Rodrigo, for the revival of Ben Jonson's 
Alchymisf under John Rich at Covent Garden Theatre in 
1732, and of the music of Terpsichore^ a ballet that he 
composed in 1734 for Mile. Salle. Handel's dance music 
is almost invariably fresh and charming, and even when 
he is in his lightest mood his grand manner never deserts 
him. His instrumental music is now sadly out of fashion, 
and it would probably be impossible to expect the average 
twentieth century concert-goer to take much interest in it. 
But to those who have mastered the Handelian idiom its 
beauty appears eternally new, and its unfailing dignity 
and loftiness of style recall the words in which Edward 
FitzGerald summed up his opinion of Handel : " His is 
the music for a great active people." 


Merlini's Letter to Ferdinand dei Medici 

Roma, 24 Settemhre 1707 
" Serenissima Altezza, — Essendo costume degnissimo 
di V.A.S., che ha il suo grand' animo ornato di tutte le 
virtu, di far scelta de' virtuosi piu rinomati in tutte le 
occasioni che se le appresentano di porre in lodata e 
dilettevole prova il lor valore : molto e doveroso che sia 
noto alia medesima S.A.V. un germe novello quale e un 
giovinetto di anni tredici Romano, che in eta si tenera 
tocca r arciliuto con fondamento e franchezza tale che 
postegli innanzi compositioni anche non pria vedute 
gareggia non senza grande ammiratione e meritato 
applauso con professori e virtuosi piu inveterati e piu 
celebri. Questo interviene alle Musiche e primarie 
Accademie di Roma, come e a dire in quella dell' Emo 
Sig'^^- Card'^- Ottoboni, nell' altra che per tutto I'anno 
quotidianamente continua nell' Ecc""^- Casa Colonna e nel 
Collegio Clementino ; e si in queste come in altre pubbli- 
che Accademie suona a solo ed in concerto con qualsiasi 
virtuoso. E tuttocio ben potrebbe testificarsi dal Sassone 
famoso che lo ha ben inteso in Casa Ottoboni, ed in 
Casa Colonna ha sonato seco e vi sona di continuo. II 
Sig"^^- Duca della Mirandola nel tempo di sua dimora in 
Roma sempre 1' ha tenuto appresso di se. Per tanto se 
V.A.S. in congiuntura di cotesta opera havesse curiosita 
di sperimentarlo ardisco dire che cio avverrebbe con 
istupore di chi che sia. E per essere il fancuillo figlio del 
Decano della Sig""^- Prencipessa Altieri credo che esso di 



lui padre ne havera una somma ambizione. Lo stesso 
figliolo e di gran spirito, di bella presenza e di ottima 
indole. Et in humilita alia S.A.V. le faccio pro- 
fondiss^ riv^^, 

" Anibale Merlini " 

Archivio Mediceo, Filza 5897 


Letters on Israel in Egypt 

I have not succeeded in finding a copy of the London 
Daily Post in which the first of the following letters 
appeared. It was, however, reprinted in the issue of 
April I, 1740, on the occasion of a revival of Israel in 

Wedaesday viorning, April 18, 1739 
" Sir, — I beg Leave, by your Paper, to congratulate, 
not Mr. Handel, but the Town, upon the appearance 
there was last Night at Israel in Egypt. The glory of 
one Man, on this Occasion, is but of small Importance, 
in Comparison with that of so numerous an Assembly. 
The having a disposition to encourage, and Faculties to 
be entertain'd by such a truly-spiritual Entertainment, 
being very little inferior to the unrivall'd Superiority of 
first selecting the noble thoughts contained in the Drama, 
and giving to each its proper Expression in that most 
noble and angelic Science of Musick. This, Sir, the 
inimitable Author has done in such a manner as far to 
excel himself, if compar'd with any other of his masterly 
Compositions: As, indeed, he must have infinitely sunk 
beneath himself, and done himself great Injustice, had 
he fallen short of doing so. — But what a glorious 
Spectacle ! to see a crowded Audience of the first 
Quality of a Nation, headed by the Heir-apparent of 


their Sovereign's Crown and Virtues, with his lovely 
and beloved Royal Consort by his Side, sitting enchanted 
(each receiving a superior Delight from the visible Satis- 
faction it gave the other) at Sounds, that at the same 
time express'd in so sublime a manner the Praises of the 
Deity itself, and did such Honour to the Faculties of 
human Nature, in first creating those Sounds, if I may 
so speak ; and in the next Place, being able to be so 
highly delighted with them. Nothing shows the Worth 
of a People more, than their Taste for Publick Diversions : 
And could it be suppos'd, as I hope in Charity it may, 
or if this and suchlike Entertainments are often repeated, 
it will, that numerous and splendid Assemblies shall enter 
into the true Spirit of such an Entertainment, praising 
their Creator for the Care He takes of ' the Righteous ' 
(see Oratorio, p. 6) and for the Delight he gives them : — 
Did such a Taste prevail tmiversally in a People, that 
People might expect on a like Occasion^ if such Occasion 
should ever happen to them, the sam,e Deliverance as those 
praises celebrate ; and Protestant, free, virtuous, united. 
Christian England need little fear, at any time Jiereafter, the 
whole Force of slavish, bigotted, united, unchristian Popery^ 
risen up against her should sucli a conjuncture ever hereafter 

" If the Town is ever to be bless'd with this Entertain- 
ment again, I would recommend to every one to take 
the Book of the Drama with them : For tho' the Harmony 
be so unspeakably great of itself, it is in an unmeasurable 
Proportion more so, when seen to what Words it is 
adapted ; especially, if every one who could take with 
them the Book, would do their best to carry a Heart for 
the Sense, as well as an Ear for the Sound. • 

" The narrow Limits of your Paper forbids entering 
into Particulars : But they know not what they fall short 
of in the Perfection of the Entertainment, who, when they 
hear the Musick, are not acquainted with the Words it 
expresses ; or, if they have the Book, have not the proper 
Spirit to relish them. The Whole of the first Part 
\i.e. the Funeral Anthem] is entirely Devotional ; and 


tho' the second Part be but Historical, yet as it relates 
the great Acts of the Power of God, the Sense and 
the Musick have a reciprocal Influence upon each 

" * He gave them Hailstones for Rain, Fire mingled with 
the Hail ran along the Ground ' : And above all, ' But 
the Waters overwhelm'd their Enemies, there was not 
one left.' — The Sublimity of the great Musical Poet's 
Imagination here will not admit of Expression to any 
one who considers the Sound and the Sense together. 

" The same of ' He is my God, I will prepare Him an 
Habitation: my Father's God.' Page 13 in the third 

"Again, 'Thou didst blow with the Wind; the Sea 
cover'd them ; they sunk as Lead in the mighty Waters,' 
— and, to name no more, ' The Lord shall reign for ever 
and ever'; and Miriam's Song at the Conclusion. 

" 'Tis a sort of separate Existence the Musick has in 
these places apart from the Words ; 'tis Soul and Body 
join'd when heard and read together: and if People 
before they went to hear it would but retire a Moment, 
and read by themselves the Words of the Sacred Drama, 
it would tend very much to raise their Delight when 
at the Representation, The Theatre, on this Occasion, 
ought to be enter'd with more solemnity than a Church ; 
inasmuch as the Entertainment you go to is really in 
itself the noblest Adoration and Homage paid to the 
Deity that ever was in one. So sublime an Act of 
Devotion as this Representation carries in it, to a Heart 
and Ear duly tuned for it, would consecrate even Hell 
itself — It is the Action that is done in it that hallows the 
Place, and not the Place the Action. And if any outward 
Circumstances foreign to me can adulterate a good 
Action, I do not see where I can perform one, but in the 
most abstract Solitude. — If this be going out of the 
way, on this Occasion, the stupid senseless Exceptions 
that have been taken to so truly religious Representations 
as this, in particular, and the other Oratorios are, from 
the Place they are exhibited in, and to the attending and 


assisting at them by Persons of real Piety must be my 

" I have been told, the Words were selected out of 
the Sacred Writings by the Great Composer himself. 
If so, the Judiciousness of his Choice in this Respect, 
and his suiting so happily the Magnificence of the Sounds 
in so exalted a Manner to the Grandeur of the Subject, 
shew which Way his natural Genius, had he but 
Encouragement, would incline him ; and expresses, in 
a very lively Manner, the Harmony of his Heart to be 
as superlatively excellent, as the inimitable Sounds do 
the Beauty and Force of his Imagination and Skill in 
the noble Science itself. 

" I can't conclude, Sir, without great concern at the 
Disadvantage so great a Master labours under, with 
respect to many of his Vocal Instruments, which fall so 
vastly short in being able to do due Justice to what they 
are to perform ; and which, if executed in a manner 
worthy of it, would receive so great advantage. This 
Consideration will make a humane Mind serious, where 
a lighter Mind would be otherwise affected. I shall 
conclude with this Maxim, ' That in Publick Entertain- 
ments Every one should come with a reasonable Desire 
of being entertain'd themselves, or with the polite Resolu- 
tion no ways to interrupt the Entertainment of others. 
And that to have a truce with Dissipation and noisy 
Discourse, and to forbear that silly Affectation of beating 
Time aloud on such an Occasion is indeed in appearance 
a great Compliment paid to the Divine Author of so 
sacred an Entertainment, and to the rest of the Company 
near them; but at the same time in reality a much 
greater Respect paid to themselves.' I cannot but add 
this Word, since I am on the Subject, That I think a 
profound Silence a much more proper Expression of 
Approbation to Musick, and to deep Distress in Tragedy, 
than all the noisy Applause so much in Vogue, however 
great the Authority of Custom may be for it. — I am, 
Sir, etc, R. W." 


London Daily Post, 13 May 1739 

" Sir, — Upon my arrival in town three days ago, I was 
not a little surprised to find that Mr. Handel's last 
oratorio, Israel in Egypt, which had been perform'd but 
once, was advertised to be for the last time on Wednesday. 
I was almost tempted to think that his genius had failed 
him, but must own myself agreeably disappointed. I was 
not only pleased, but also affected by it ; for I never yet 
met with any musical performance in which the words 
and sentiments were so thoroughly studied and so clearly 
understood ; and as the words are taken from the Bible 
they are perhaps some of the most sublime parts of it. 
I was indeed concerned that so excellent a work of so 
great a genius was neglected, for though it was a polite 
and attentive audience, it was not large enough, I doubt, 
to encourage him in any future attempt. As I should be 
extremely sorry to be deprived of hearing this again, and 
found many of the auditors in the same disposition, yet 
being afraid Mr. Handel will not undertake it without 
some publick encouragement, because he may think 
himself precluded by his advertisement (that it was to be 
the last time) I must beg leave by your means to convey 
not only my own but the desires of several others that he 
will perform this again some time next week. — I am. Sir, 
your very humble servant, A. Z." 


Handel's Indebtedness to other Composers 

Of late years the question of Handel's indebtedness to 
other composers has occupied an altogether dispro- 
portionate amount of attention, indeed writers on Handel 
have devoted themselves to this particular point almost 
to the exclusion of all other phases of the composer's 


activity. Mr. Sedley Taylor's Indebtedness of Hatidel to 
other Composers (Cambridge, 1907), and Mr. P. Robinson's 
Handel and his Orbit (London, 1908), discuss the question 
so fully that it is hardly necessary for me to do more than 
refer my readers to their pages for a summary of the 
latest conclusions on the subject. However, as a certain 
amount of misunderstanding still exists with regard to 
Handel's supposed delinquencies, it may be as well to 
recapitulate briefly all that is known about them. 

There is no doubt that Handel did make liberal use 
of the works of other men. The practice was by no 
means uncommon in his day, as Mr. Robinson proves up 
to the hilt, but Handel seems to have gone a considerable 
step farther than any of his contemporaries. Often he 
borrowed only a phrase or two and worked them up into 
elaborate choruses, but at other times he would take over 
a whole movement practically unaltered, as in the case 
of " Egypt was glad," and " Ere to dust is changed thy 
beauty." We know now, thanks to the labours of Mr. 
Robinson, that several of the works from which he 
borrowed most, e.g. the so-called Urio Te Deum and the 
Erba Magnificat, were in all probability early works of 
his own, but his indebtedness to many well-known 
composers of his own day remains an established fact. 
It is certain, too, that his borrowing was conducted upon 
a regular system. He had notebooks in which he jotted 
down passages which he thought would be useful, laying 
up a store of other men's ideas against a rainy day. This 
practice of his has proved a grievous stumbling-block to 
many of his latter-day admirers, whose pious minds have 
been severely exercised by the suspicion that their hero, 
though the soul of honesty in the ordinary affairs of life, 
was as unscrupulous as a highwayman in artistic matters. 
The difficulty is purely imaginary ; the mistake is to 
judge Handel according to modern notions of property. 
Copyright legislation has in our times entirely altered 
the popular view of a man's rights in the productions of 
his own brain. In Handel's day the idea that literary or 
artistic works were the actual property of their authors 


did not exist. What we now call piracy was a recognised 
institution, and Handel suffered from it as much as 
anybody. It is true that composers did not as a rule 
venture to make free with his music, though Mr. Robinson 
has shown that Muffat did so on occasion, but the reason 
for their abstention is obvious. Handel borrowed subjects 
from his contemporaries because he saw that he could do 
more wdth them than the composers had done, but he 
would have been a bold man who ventured to go one 
better than "the celebrated Mr. Handel." But in other 
respects the pirates had their will of him, and apparently 
without any protest on his part. When Walsh made a 
fortune out of Rinaldo, Handel treated the incident as a 
joke, and merely observed that the next time Walsh 
should write the opera and he would publish it. When 
Arne gave a performance of Acts and Galatea under 
Handel's very nose in the Haymarket, Handel made no 
protest, but merely replied with a performance of his own. 
Everything goes to prove that in those days a musical 
work, so soon as it materialised into paper and ink, was 
common property, and any one who chose could do what 
he liked with it. To pass off another man's work as your 
own, as Bononcini is supposed to have done in the case 
of a madrigal by Lotti, was a perfectly different thing, 
and was regarded as a piece of shameless dishonesty, but 
no one thought the worse of a man for making judicious 
use of what was evidently regarded as the common stock. 
The distinction appears a slight one to us, whose minds 
are trained by modern legislation, but in the eighteenth 
century it was evidently observed with the utmost nicety. 
After all, who shall say that we are right and our 
ancestors wrong ? We talk glibly nowadays about a thing 
being right or wrong, when all that we really mean is 
that it is legal or illegal. Consciences are quite as elastic 
now as they ever were. When a law is passed we contrive 
to adjust our moral standard to it in a very short time. 
Even now, be it observed, with all our copyright legisla- 
tion, we have by no means come to regard the products 
of our brains as property in the same sense as lands, 


houses, and money. A man is only allowed to enjoy the 
proceeds of a patented invention for fourteen years. The 
books that we write and the music that we compose are 
ours only for a limited period, which varies in different 
countries. Yet what can be more essentially a man's 
property than the works of his own imagination ? Surely 
they are his in a far more intimate sense than the goods 
and chattels that he inherits from his forefathers. True, 
says the modern legislator, but it is for the good of the 
world at large that books, music, and inventions should 
eventually become public property. Undoubtedly, but 
would it not also be for the good of the world that 
the wealth of our millionaires should eventually be 
absorbed by the State? However, so long as our laws 
are made by those who are richer in money than in brains 
the millionaires will be safe and the authors, composers, 
and inventors will have to suffer. Truly the phantom 
Property leads us into strange passes ! 

But to return to Handel, there is no doubt that in his 
own day no one thought any the worse of him for taking 
his own wherever he found it. No man had more 
enemies than Handel, and they left no stone unturned in 
their endeavours to ruin him, yet not one of them ever 
made his habitual borrowing an excuse for blackening 
his character. Even his old enemy Mattheson, who would 
have been only too pleased to injure his artistic reputa- 
tion, writing so early as 1722 refers at some length in 
his Critica Alusica to the fact that Handel used a tune 
borrowed from Mattheson's own Porsenna in his Agrippina 
and Muzio Scevola. Yet there is no trace of bitterness 
in his observations, indeed he does not go beyond a little 
mild chaff about Handel's excellent memory. Scheibe in 
Der Critische Musikus (1737) remarks : " Handel has often 
worked out not only his own thoughts but those of other 
people, especially of Reinhard Keiser," without imputing 
any suggestion of blame. The Abbe Prevost, who lived 
in London for several years, knew all about Handel's 
borrowings. In Le Four et le Contre (1733) we read : 
" Ouelques critiques I'accusent d'avoir emprunte le fond 


d'une infinite de belles choses de Lully et surtout des 
cantates fran9aises, qu'il a I'adresse, disent-ils, de deguiser 
a ritalienne. Mais le crime serait leger, quand il serait 
certain." Mr. Robinson, in Handel and his Orbit, quotes 
many additional passages which prove that Handel's use 
of other men's music was no secret to his contemporaries. 
Moreover, he conclusively establishes the fact that Handel 
not only took no pains to shroud his proceedings in 
secrecy, but on the contrary seems to have gone out of 
his way to advertise them to all whom they might 
concern. But the best summing-up of the views of the 
eighteenth century upon what we now call literary larceny 
is to be found in Byrom's lines on the famous Milton- 
Lauder controversy : — 

" Crime in a Poet, sirs, to steal a Tiiought? 
No, that 'tis not, if it be good for aught. 
'Tis lawful Theft ; 'tis laudable to boot ; 
'Tis want of Genius if he does not do't. 
The Fool admires, the Man of Sense alone 
Lights on a happy Thought, and makes it all his own ; 

Flies like a Bee along the Muses' Field, 

Peeps in and tastes what any Flow'r can yield — 

Free, from the various Blossoms that he meets 

To pick and cull and carry Home the Sweets ; 

While, saunt'ring out, the heavy stingless Drone 

Amidst a thousand Sweets makes none of 'em his own." 


Ach, Herr, mich armett Sunder 

(Handel), 13 
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (Handel), 

43, 228, 232, 261, 269 
Acis and Galatea (Handel), 82, 83, 

114, 117, 255, 267, 269, 270, 

Addison, Joseph, satirises opera, 56 ; 

failure of his Rosamond, 57 ; 

attacks Rinaldo, 57, 58 ; his 

opinion of librettos, 192 
Ademollo, Agostino, 31, 46 
Admeto (Handel), 100, 242, 337 
Agrippina (Handel), 37 Jiote, 43, 46, 

222, 226-228, 260 
Aix-la-Chapelle, Handel's visit to, 

141, 144; Frederick the Great's 

opinion of, 145 ; rejoicings for 

Peace of, 200 
Alceste (Handel), 206, 322 
Akhymist, The (Handel), 338 
Alcina (Handel), 137, 222, 231, 251, 

Alessandro (Handel), 98, 241, 242 
Alessandro in Persia, 165 
Alessandro Severe (Handel), 148 
Alexander Balus (Handel), 198, 316, 


Alexander' s Feast {J^2in.^&\\ 136, 138, 
165, 186, 255, 274, 27s 

Allacci, L., his Dranimaturgia re- 
ferred to, 29, 46 

Allegro ed il Penseroso, II (Handel), 
157, 162, 164, 165, 255, 282, 

Almahide, 56, 57 

Almira (Handel), 22, 221, 224, 225, 
228, 336 

Almira (Keiser), 23 

Amadigi (Handel), 70, 233-235, 252 

Amelia, Princess, Handel appointed 
hermusic-master,75,84, 104; pre- 
sent during Faustina-Cuzzoniriot, 
loi ; quarrels with her brother, 
125; her devotion to Handel, 
133 ; present at celebration of 
Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 201 ; 
at performance of Theodora, 205 
Andrews, Handel stays with, at Barn 

Elms, 67 
Anna Maria dei Medici, Electress 
Palatine, raises money for Gian 
Gastone, 25 ; Handel visits her 
court, 49, 61 ; her character, 50 
Anne, Princess Royal, Handel ap- 
pointed her music-master, 75) 
84 ; patronises Handel's operatic 
management, 108 ; desirous of 
seeing Esther, 1 1 5 ; quarrels 
with her brother, 125 ; marries 
Prince of Orange, 132 ; her 
devotion to Handel, 133 ; per- 
suades Handel to take Lincoln's 
Inn Theatre, 134 
Anne, Queen of England, social con- 
ditions in her reign, 53 ; her 
disapproval of the stage, 55 5 
Handel composes Ode for her 
birthday, 69 ; confers pension 
upon Handel, 70 ; her death, 70 
Annibali, Domenico, sings for Han- 
del, 140 
Ansbach, Handel visits, 77 
Anthems (Handel) — 

Chandos, 82, 264-266 

Coronation, 105, 270-272 

Dettingen, 179, 307 

Foundling, 203 

Funeral, 147, 153, 275 

Wedding, 132, 138, 274, 275 



Antiochus (Gasparini), 69 
Arbuthnot, John, meets Handel at 
Burlington House, 67 ; satirises 
opera scandal in The Devil to 
■tay at St. James'' s, 102 ; attacks 
Beggar's Opera, 106 ; defends 
Handel in Harmony in an Up- 
roar, 128 ; criticises Senesino, 
130 ; his opinion of Handel, 173 
Arcadian Academy, 35, 43, 258 
Ariadne (Handel), 130, 134, 249, 

Ariadne (Porpora), 130 
Ariodattte (Handel), 134, 250, 251, 

Ariosti, Attilio, his legendary meeting 
with Handel at Berlin, 9 ; Rolli's 
epigram on, 9 7tote ; appointed 
musical director of Royal Aca- 
demy of Music, 86 ; act of Ahizio 
Scevola wrongly attributed to him, 
90 ; epigram on his music, 1 00 
Armida (Gluck), 231, 252 
Arminio (Handel), 140, 253 
Arne, Thomas, performs Handel's 

Acis and Galatea, 1 17, 346 
Arsinoc (Clayton), 55 
Astarto (Bononcini), 89, 237 
Astyanax (Bononcini), 100 
Atalanta (Handel), 138, 252 
Athaliah (Handel), 127, 132, 136, 

273. 274, 302 

Augusta, Princess of Wales, her 
marriage, 138 ; present at 
Handel's rehearsals, 181 ; at 
celebration of Peace of Aix-la- 
Chapelle, 201 ; at Foundling 
Hospital, 203 

Augustus, of Saxony, Duke, appoints 
Handel's father his private sur- 
geon, 2 ; his court at Halle, ib. 

Avolio, Signora, arrives in Dublin, 
162, 163 ; sings in Messiah, 167- 

Babell, William, Handel praises his 
playing, 60 

Bach, Johann Sebastian, tries to 
meet Handel at Halle, 87 ; van- 
quishes Marchand at Dresden, 
ib. ; invites Handel to Leipzig, 
1 10 ; his interview with Frederick 

the Great, 145 ; his Christinas 
Oratorio, 269 ; his sacred music 
compared with Handel's, 263- 
265, 285, 298, 300, 333 
Bagpipes, imitated by Handel, 282, 

Baily, James, sings in Messiah, 168 

Baker, , recommends singers to 

Handel, 161 
Baldassarri, Benedetto, engaged by 

Handel, 86 
Banister, John, plays at Britton's 

concerts, 60 
Beard, John, sings for Handel, 136, 
191 ; Walpole's criticism of, 
175; his marriage, 175, 176; 
his singing in Samson, 213 
Beattie, James, his anecdote of The 
Messiah, 177 ; his view of Han- 
del's religious belief, 219 
Beethoven, Ludwig van, Handel 

compared with, 335 
Beggar's Opera, 77ie {Gd.y), 106, 112, 

158, 162 
Belshazzar (Handel), 182, 185, 187, 

312, 313 
Bentley, Richard, of Nailston, 151 
Bentley, Thomas, 151 note 
Berenice (Handel), 140, 253 
Berlin, Handel's visit to, 7 
Bernacchi, Antonio, no, iii, 114 
Bertolli, Francesca, in 
Binitz, von, takes Handel to Italy, 

Bonlini, G. C, references to his 

Glorie delta Poesia, 43 note, 46 
Bononcini, Giovanni Maria, his 
legendary meeting with Handel 
at Berlin, 9 ; appointed musical 
director of Royal Academy of 
Music, 86 ; production of his 
Astarto, 89 ; collaborates with 
Handel in Muzio Scevola, 90 ; 
production of his Crispo and 
Griselda, ib. ; dismissed by 
Royal Academy, 93 ; patronised 
by Duchess of Marlborough, ib. ; 
production of his Farnace and 
Calfitrnia, ib. ; Byrom's epigram 
on, 94 ; production of his Asty- 
anax, 100; attacks Handel in 
Advice to Composers, 107 ; per- 



forms serenata at opera-house, 
118; leaves England in disgrace, 
131, 346 ; furnishes melody of 
Handel's last composition, 216 ; 
his influence on Handel, 230, 
237, 238 
Bononcini, Marcantonio, his Caniilla 
performed in London, 55, 56 ; 
Duke of Manchester tries to 
bring him to London, 55 ; his 
Etearco produced in London, 56 
Bordoni, Faustina. See Faustina 
Borosini, Francesco, 96, 239 
Boschi, Giuseppe, 48, 86 
Bradshaw, Mrs., letter on " smock- 
runs," 103 
Bristol, Elizabeth, Countess of, her 
description of Cuzzoni, 93 ; refers 
to Bononcini's dismissal, ib. ; 
letter on opera, 130 
Brookes, Barthold, 77, 263 
Britton, Thomas, his concerts, 60 
Brook Street, Handel's house in, 88 
Broughton, Thomas, 309 
Brown, Lady, her hostility to Han- 
del, 184 
Burlington, Dorothy, Countess of, 99 
Burlington, Juliana, Countess of, 69 
Burlington, Richard, Earl of, Handel 
stays with, 67 ; celebrated by 
Gay, 68 ; invites Pope to Chis- 
wick, ib. ; Teseo dedicated to 
him, 69 ; reconciles Handel to 
George i, 73 ; Handel plays at 
his house, 214 
Burney, Charles, his reference to 
Corelli's technique, 40 ; to Sene- 
sino, 89 Jiote ; to Cuzzoni, 92 ; 
to Strada, no, in iwfe ; to 
Caffarelli, 148 ; to Handel's visit 
to Chester, 161 ; to Quin's ac- 
count of T/ie Messiah, 167 ; to 
Dubourg, 170; to Mrs. Cibber, 
175; to Handel's behaviour at 
rehearsal, 181 ; anecdote of 
Handel's impetuosity, 196 ; de- 
scription of Handel's appearance, 
205 ; reference to Theodora, 
206 ; to Handel's playing when 
blind, 213 ; to Handel's death, 
217; to Handel's organ con- 
certos, 333 

Butler, Samuel, his note on Hercules, 
309 ; on Handel's harpsichord 
suites, 328 ; on Handel's sixth 
fugue, ib. 

Byrom, John, his epigram on Handel 
and Bononcini, 94 ; lines on 
Italian opera, 96 ; reference to 
Figg, the prize-fighter, 103 ; 
description of first night of Hnrlo- 
thriunbo, 1 12; lines on Milton- 
Lauder controversy, 348 

Caduta dei Giganti, La (Gluck), 


Caffarelli, 148 

Caio Fabrizio, 130 

Caldara, Antonio, 35 

Calfurnia (Bononcini), 93 

Calypso (Galliard), 64 

Camilla (Bononcini), 55) S6, 86 

Canons, built by Duke of Chandos, 

79; its chapel, 80; organ, 81 ; 

opening of chapel, 83 
Cantatas (Handel), 40, 43, 232 
Carestini, Giovanni, engaged by 

Handel, 129; his voice, 130; 

Lady Bristol's opinion of, ib. ; 

sings in A?'iodante, 134 ; quarrels 

with Handel, 137 ; leaves Eng- 
land, ib. ; his singing in Ariadite, 

Carey, Henry, attacks Beggar s Opera, 

106 ; parodies opera in Dragon 

ofWantley, 141 
Carissimi, Giacomo, 257-259 
Carlton House, Handel at, 181 
Caroline, Queen, her friendship with 

Handel, 62 ; her singing, ib. ; 

confers pension on Handel, 75 ; 

present at opera-house during 

Faustina-Cuzzoni riot, 102 ; 

support's Handel's opera, 131 ; 

death, 145 ; George ii's grief 

for, 146 ; Handel writes Funeral 

Anthem for, 147 
Caroline, Princess, Handel appointed 

her music-master, 75; 84, 104 ; 

her devotion to Handel, 133 
Cavalieri, Emilio del, 257 
Chalumeaux, Handel's use of, 243 
Chamber Duets (Handel), 62, 291, 

292, 295 



Chandos, Henry, 2nd Duke of, his 
romantic marriage, 8i 

Chandos, James, ist Duke of, builds 
Canons, 79 ; engages Pcpusch 
as musical director, 81 ; engages 
Handel, 82, 264 ; his adventure 
with highwaymen, 85 

Chandos Anthems, (Handel), 82, 

Chandos Te Deum, (Handel), 82, 

Chansons (Handel), 43 

Charles Edward, Prince, his rebellion, 
189, 313, 314 

Cheltenham, Handel's visits to, 188, 

Chester, Handel's visit to, 161 

Chesterfield, Melusina, Countess of. 
See Schulenburg 

Chesterfield, Philip Dormer, Earl of, 
his wager with Heidegger, 65 ; 
his epigram on Handel's ora- 
torios, 180 

Chimenti, 139 

Choice of Hercules, The (Handel), 
216, 321, 322 

Christmas Oratorio (Bach), 261 

Chrysander, Friedrich, references to 
his biography of Handel, 31, 37, 
43 note, 74 note ; to his edition 
of Handel's works, 6, 13 

Cibber, Susannah Maria, in Dublin, 
162 ; sings in The Messiah, 167- 
169 ; Dr. Delany's tribute to her 
singing, 169 note; Walpole's 
criticism of, 175 

Clarinet, Handel's use of, 240 

Clayton, Thomas, 55, 57 

Clement ix, Pope, 258 

Cleopatra (Mattheson), 19, 21 

Clotilda (Conti), 57 

Cobham, Anne, Viscountess, supports 
Handel, 180 

Coke, Lady Jane, letter on celebration 
of Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 200 

Colombo (Ottoboni), 34 

Colonna, Cardinal, Handel plays at 
his house, 33, 339 ; tries to 
introduce Handel to Pretender, 

Compton, Lady Elizabeth, reference 
to Beard, 136 

Concertos (Handel) — 
Grand, 332 

Hautboy, 62, 331, 332 
Organ, 136, 333-335 

Concerts, in London, 59 

Conforto, Domenico, 42 

Congreve, William, 307 

Cope, Sir John, 189 

Corelli, Arcangelo, meets Handel, 35 ; 
admitted to Arcadian Academy, 
ib. ; scene with Handel, 40 

Coronation Anthems (Handel), 105, 

Cosmo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, 

Cowper, Lady, her diary quoted, 54, 

Craftsman, The, publishes lampoon 
on Walpole and Handel, 120 

Crispo (Bononcini), 90 

Critic, The (Sheridan), 250 

Cumberland, William, Duke of, 
birth, 90 ; Judas Maccabceus 
written in his honour, 192, 314; 
gives Morell a present, 193 ; 
present at celebration of Peace of 
Aix-la-Chapelle, 201 ; pardons 
Servandoni, 202 

Cuzzoni, Francesca, appears with 
Vittoria Tesi in Daplme, 31 ; 
makes her English debut, 91 ; 
her appearance, voice, and 
character, 92 ; sings English 
ballads, 93 ; her triumphs in 
Handel's operas, 96 ; appears 
with Faustina, 98 ; rivalry 
between them, 99 ; causes riots 
in opera-house, 100-104 5 sings 
at King's Theatre, 1 34 ; re- 
appears in England, and sings in 
Messiah, 207 ; death, 208 

Deborah (Handel), 119, 120, 136, 

254, 271-273, 302, 337 
Defesch, William, 191 
Defoe, Daniel, his description of 

Canons, 79, 80 
Deida7nia (Handel), 158, 222, 254 
Delany, Dr., his tribute to Mrs. 

Gibber's singing, 169 note, 

present at rehearsal of Dettingen 

Te Deum, 179 



Delany, Mary, meets Handel as a 
child, 59 ; her description of a 
water-parly, 73 note ; of Cuzzoni's 
singing, 92 ; refers to dismissal 
of Bononcini, 93 ; describes 
Riccardo, 105 ; and Beggar s 
Opera, 106 ; criticises Lotarto, 
112 ; Handel plays at her house, 
133, 136, 140; descnhts Akina, 
137 ; mentions Pasquin to Swift, 
139; letters on opera, 139, 142 ; 
criticises Beard, 175 ; present at 
rehearsal of Dettingen Te Detun, 
179; criticises ^■^we/^, 179, 180; 
describes Joseph, 182 ; refers to 
Handel's blindness, 212 

Dent, E. J., references to his 
biography of Scarlatti, 35, 36, 
40-42, 228-230, 257 

De Quincey, Thomas, his description 
of Coronation Anthem, 270 

Dettingen, victory of, 178 

Dettingen Anthem (Handel), 179, 

Dettingen Te Deum (Handel), 179, 

275. 307 
Devil to pay at St. James's, The 

(Arbuthnot), 102 
Devonshire, William, 4th Duke of, 

invites Handel to Ireland, 160 
Dido and yiEneas (Purcell), 246, 319 
Dionisio (Perti), 36 
Dixit Dominus (Handel), 32, 229, 

Dodington, George Bubb, his de- 
scription of Prince Frederick's 

funeral, 215 
Dragon of IVantley, 'I he (Lampe), 

141, 158 
Dresden, Handel's visit to, 86-SS 
Dublin, Handel's visit to, 160-172 
Dubourg, Matthew, teaches the violin 

to Prince Frederick, 126, 329 ; 

established in Dublin, 162, 163 ; 

performs in Messiah, 167, 168 ; 

story of his cadenza, 1 70 ; 

Handel's sonatas composed for, 

Du Breil, dances in Rinaldo, 57 
Duets (Handel), 62, 291, 292, 295 
Durastanti, Francesca, sings in 

Agrippina, 47 ; George I stands 


godfather to her son, 71 ; 
engaged by Handel, 86 ; her 
singing not a success, 91 ; sings 
with Carestini, 130 
Dtisseldorf, Handel's visits to, 49, 
61, 86 

Earthquakes, Handel's concerts 

affected by, 204 
Elbing, Handel writes cantata for, 

Elmiro (Pallavicino), 43 note 
Encores, by-law forbidding, 71 
Erba Magnificat, 45 note, 345 
Ei-losung des Volks Gottes, Die 

(Handel), 13 
Ernest Augustus, of Hanover, Prince, 

meets Handel at Venice, 36 ; 

invites him to Hanover, 39 
Esther (Handel), 81-83, Ii4-ii7> 

136, 165, 267-269, 271, 302, 


Etearco (Bononcini), 56 
Ezio (Handel), 114, 246 

Fabri, Annibale, no, iii, 114 
Fabrice, Kammerherr van, 39, 90 
Faramondo (Handel), 147 note, 148, 

. 253. 
Farinelli, Handel hears him in Italy, 
129 ; engaged by the " Opera of 
the Nobility," 133 ; infatuation 
for, 139; sings in Porpora's 
Festa ahneneo, ib. ; his vogue 
declines, ib. ; leaves England, 

Farnace (Bononcini), 93 

Faustina [Bordoni], engaged by 
Royal Academy of Music, 97 ; 
appears in Alessandro, 98 ; 
rivalry with Cuzzoni, 99 ; cause 
of riots at opera-Jiouse, 100-104 

Ferdinand dei Medici, Prince, his 
court at Florence, 27 ; Handel 
introduced to, 28 ; his friendship 
with Scarlatti, and opinion of his 
music, 28, 225 ; gives Handel 
service of porcelain, 29 ; 
Merlini's letter to, 32, 339 ; 
produces Perti's Dionisio, 36 ; 
his illness and recovery, 45 

Festa d Ivieneo, La (Porpora), 139 



Fidelia (Beethoven), Rodelinda com- 
pared with, 241 

Fielding, Henry, his Pasqiiin pro- 
duced, 139; description of ora- 
torio performance in Amelia, 194 

Figg, J., his prize-fighting "Acad- 
emy," 103 

Fireworks INIusic (Handel), 200-202, 

FitzGerald, Edward, his remarks on 
Handel's wig, 181 ; on "He 
layeth the beams," 241 ; on 
Handel's paganism, 255 ; on Acis 
and Galatea, 269 ; on the char- 
acter of Handel's music, 270, 338 

Flavio (Handel), 95, 238 

Flemming, Count von, 87 

P'lorence, Handel's visits to, 27, 30, 
36, 44 

Floridante (Handel), 90, 237, 238 

Florindo tmd Dap/uic (Handel), 26 

Foundling Anthem (Handel), 203 

Foundling Hospital, Fireworks Music 
performed at, 202 ; Handel's 
munificence to, 203 ; perform- 
ances of Messiah at, 203, 208 

Fountayne, Rev. Mr., 315 

Francesina, 148, 191 

Franz, Robert, his additional ac- 
companiments to Messiah, 296 

Frasi, Giulia, 196, 197 

Frederick I, King of Prussia, his 
court at Berlin, 7 ; wishes to 
send Handel to Italy, 10 

Frederick il, the Great, King of 
Prussia, story of his message to 
Handel, 144; his opinion of 
Aix-la-Chapelle, 145 ; his inter- 
view with Bach, ib. 

Frederick, Prince of Wales, his 
popularity, 125; his quarrels 
with his family, ih. ; his hostility 
to Handel, 126; takes violin 
lessons from Dubourg, 126, 329 ; 
instrumental in founding "Opera 
of Nobility," 126 ; supports it 
strongly, 131 ; his marriage, 
138 ; reconciled to Handel, ib. ; 
joins anti-Walpolian mob, 155 ; 
Samson dedicated to him, 174 ; 
his friendship with Handel, 180, 
181 ; recommends Morell to 

Handel, 193; present at celebra- 
tion of Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 
201 ; at Foundling Hospital, 
203 ; bails Cuzzoni, 208 ; his 
death, 214 

Frost Fair, 156 

Funeral Anthem (Handel), 147, 153, 

Galliard, John Ernest, 64 
Galuppi, Baldassarre, 165 
Gasparini, Francesco, 37, 69 
Gates, Bernard, gives performance of 

Esther at his house, 83, 1 15 
Gay, John, his description of Mohock 
frolics, 53 ; meets Handel at 
Burlington House, 67 ; cele- 
brates Lord Burlington in Trivia, 

68 ; and in A Journey to Exeter, 

69 ; writes libretto of Acis and 
Galatea, 83 ; letter to Swift on 
music, 94 ; produces Beggar s 
Opera, 106 ; difficulties over 
Polly, 112 

Geminiani, Francesco, his story of 
Corelli, 40 ; plays at court of 
George i, 74 

German Songs (Handel), 62 

George i, King of England, appoints 
Handel Kapellmeister at 
Hanover, 49 ; his correspond- 
ence with Elector Palatine, 
62 ; succeeds to English throne, 
70; his fondness for opera, 71 ; 
reconciled to Handel, 74 ; 
confers pension upon him, 75 ; 
his dislike of England, ib. ; visits 
Hanover, 76 ; returns to London, 
78 ; death, 104 

George 11, King of England, Handel 
introduced to, 49 ; his behaviour 
at Heidegger's masquerade, 66 ; 
proclaimed King, 104 ; his 
coronation, 105 ; supports 
Handel's opera, 131 ; his 
admiration for The Dragon 
of Wantley, 141 ; his grief at 
death of Queen Caroline, 146 ; 
present at first London per- 
formance of Messiah, 177 ; his 
victory at Dettingen, 178; 
supports Handel's oratorios, 



1 80 ; his view of Jacobite 
rebellion, 189; present at 
celebration of Peace of Aix-la- 
Chapelle, 201 

Gibson, Edmund, Bishop of London, 

Giovanni Gastone dei Medici, 
Prince, meets Handel at 
Hamburg, 23 ; visits Florence, 
26 ; introduces Handel to 
Prince Ferdinand, 28 ; present at 
thanksgiving service in Florence, 

Giuho Cesare (Handel), 95, 238, 239 
Giustino (Handel), 140, 222, 253 
Gizziello, sings at Covent Garden, 140 
Gluck, Christoph Willibald von, 
writes Cadtita dei Gigatiti, 195 ; 
Handel's opinion of, ib. ; his 
visit to Handel, ib. ; his venera- 
tion for Handel, 196 ; his 
Armida compared with Kinaldo, 
231 ; his Iphigenia in Tauris 
compared with Admeto, 242 
Goethe, J. W. von, his Rinaldo 
compared with Handel's Alcina, 
Goldsmith, Oliver, his reference to 

minuet in Ariadne, 250 
Gopsall, Handel stays at, 150; 
tradition that Handel's oratorios 
were composed at, 151 
Gordon, his quarrel with Handel, 


Gosport, Canons organ now at, 81 
Grand Concertos (Handel), 332 
Granville, Bernard, 215, 217 
Greber, Giacomo, his Loves of 

Ergasto produced, 55 
Greene, Maurice, his civilities to 
Handel, 67, 262 ; organist of 
Chapel Royal, 97, 104; satirised 
in Harmony in an Uproar, 129 
Grimani, Vincenzo, Cardinal, ap- 
pointed Viceroy of Naples, 41 ; 
patronises Handel, 43 ; writes 
libretto of Agrippitta, ib. 
Griselda (Bononcini), 90, 91 
Guernsey, Lord, Handel's esteem 

for, 171 
Guns, introduced by Handel into 
Judas MaccabcEus, 197 

Halle, Handel born at, 2 ; court 
life at, ib. ; Handel's visits to, 
26, 49, 63, 77, 87, no; 
Handel matriculates at Uni- 
versity of, II; Bach's visit to, 87 

Hallelujah Chorus, origin of custom 
of standing during performance 
of, 177 ; Handel's opinion of, 
205, 321 ; his feelings while 
. composing, 219 ; compared to 
Bach's Sanctiis, 298, 300 

Hamburg, musical conditions at, 15; 
Handel arrives at, 16 ; leaves 
26 ; subsequent visit to, in 

Hamilton, Newburgh, writes libretto 
oi Sainson, 174, 303 

Handel, Dorothea, see Taust, 

Handel, George, appointed surgeon 
to Duke Augustus of Saxony, 2 ; 
discourages his son's musical 
tendency, 4 ; takes him to 
Weissenfels, ib. ; and to Berlin, 
7 ; his death, 1 1 

Handel, George Frederick — 
his birth (1685), 2 ; early inclina- 
tion for music, 3 ; visits Weissen- 
fels (1692), 4 ; studies with Zac- 
how, 5 ; visits Berlin (1696), 7 ; 
legendary encounter with Bonon- 
cini, 9 ; matriculates at Halle 
University (1702), 11 ; appointed 
organist of Schlosskirche, 12 ; 
leaves Halle (1703), 14 ; arrives at 
Hamburg, 16 ; makes friends with 
Mattheson, 17 ; his talent for im- 
provisation, 18 note ; quarrels with 
Mattheson, 19 ; produces hisyis/^tt 
Passion (1704), 21 ; produces 
Ahnira, (1705), 22 ; meets Gian 
Gastone dei Meditri, 23 ; produces 
Nero, 23 ; and Florindo und 
Daphne, 26; leaves Hamburg 
(1706), ib. ; arrives at Florence, 

28 ; produces Rodrigo (1707), 

29 ; arrives at Rome, 32, 209 ; 
introduced to Cardinal Ottoboni, 
33 ; visits Venice, 36 ; meets Prince 
Ernest Augustus, 36, 38 ; meets 
Domenico Scarlatti, 38, 339 ; 
returns to Rome (1708), 38 ; 



composes Resurrezioite and j 
Trionfo del Tempo, 40 ; his 
encounter with Corelli, ib. ; 
visits Naples, 41 ; composes 
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, 43 ; ' 
returns to Rome (1709), 44; 1 
second visit to Venice, 46 ; ] 
production of Agripphia, ib. ; 
meets Kielmansegg, 48 ; ac- 
companies him to Hanover 
(1710), 49 ; appointed Kapell- 
meister there, 49 ; visits 
DUsseldorf, 49 ; arrives in 
London, 51, 261 ; produces 
Rinaldo (171 1 ), 57 ; plays at 
Thomas Britton's, 61 ; returns 
to Hanover, ib. ; visits Halle, 

63 ; his second visit to London 
(1712), 63 ; produces Pastor 
Fido, 64 ; and Teseo (1713)) 

64 ; stays with Lord Burlington, 
67 ; plays St. Paul's organ, ib. ; 
writes Birthday Ode and Utrecht 
Te Deum, 69 ; produces Silla 
(1714) and Amadigi (1715), 70, 
78 ; composes Water Music, 73 ; 
reconciled to George I, 74 ; 
accompanies him to Hanover 
(1716), 76 ; composes Brockes 
Passion, 77 ; visits Ansbach, ib. ; 
returns to England (1717), 78 ; 
appointed musical director at 
Canons (1718), 82; writes 
Chandos Anthems and TeDeuni, 
82 ; appointed musical director 
of Royal Academy of music 
(1719), 86; goes to Germany, 
86 ; misses Bach at Halle, 87 ; 
returns to London (1720), 88 ; 
composes Esther, Acis and 
Galatea, and Suites de Pieces, 84 ; 
produces Radamisto, 88 ; colla- 
borates with Bononcini and 
Mattei in Muzio Scevola (1721), 
90 ; produces Floridante, ib. ; 
engages Cuzzoni (1722), 91 ; 
produces Ottone (1723), ib. ; 
his quarrel with Cuzzoni, 92 ; 
Byrom's epigram on, 94 ; pro- 
duces Flavio, 95 ; his encounter 
with Gordon, ib. ; produces 
Giulio Cesare (1724), ib. ; 

Tanierlano, 96 ; Rodelinda 
(1725), ib. ; and Scipio (1726), 
ib. ; becomes naturalised, 97 ; 
appointed composer to the 
Chapel Royal, ib. ; produces 
Alessandro, 98 ; doggerel verses 
on, ib. ; produces ^^wi5/'o( 1727), 
100 ; composes minuets for 
court ball, 104 ; and anthems 
for George ll's coronation, 105 ; 
produces Riccardo, ib. ; Bonon- 
cini's attack on, 107 ; produces 
Siroe (1728) and Tolomeo, ib. ; 
collapse of Royal Academy of 
Music, ib. ; partnership with 
Heidegger, 108 ; visits Italy, 
ib. ; and Halle (1729), no; 
declines invitation to visit Bach, 
ib. ; returns to London, in ; 
produces Lotario, ib. ; and Parte- 
nope (1730), 113; reorganises 
his company, 114; produces 
Poro (1731), Ezio {1732), and 
Sosa7-f?ie, ib. ; revival of Esther, 
115; and of Acis, 117; his 
subscribers rebellious, 118 
produces Orlando (1733), and 
Deborah, 119; anti-Handelian 
lampoon appears in Craftsman, 
120; hostility of Prince of 
Wales, 125 ; rival opera 
organised, 126 ; Handel visits 
Oxford, 127 ; produces .4//ia//a/^, 
ib. ; returns to London, 128 ; 
his enemies exposed in Harmony 
in an Uproar, ib. ; trip to Italy, 
129; engages Carestini, ib. ; 
produces Ariadne (1734), 130 ; 
writes anthem for Princess 
Anne's wedding, 132 ; produces 
Parnasso in Festa, ib. ; plays at 
Mrs. Delany's, 133, 136, 140 ; 
opens season at Lincoln's Inn 
Fields, 134 ; moves to Covent 
Garden, ib. ; produces Terpsi- 
cho7-e, Orestes, and Ariodante 
(1735)) ib. ; performs oratorios 
and concertos, 136 ; produces 
Alcina, 137 ; quarrels with 
Carestini, ib. ; produces Alex- 
ander s Feast (1736) ; writes 
anthem for Prince of Wales's 



wedding, 138; produces 

Atalanta, ib. ; and Ar>?iiiiio 
(^737)> Giustino, and Berenice, 
140 ; revises Triofifo del Tempo, 
ib. ; his health breaks down, 
140 ; declared bankrupt, 141 ; 
goes to Aix-la-Chapelle, ib. ; 
restored to health, 144 ; writes 
cantata for Elbing, ib. ; legend- 
ary story relating to Frederick the 
Great, ib. ; plays the organ in 
Flanders, 145; returns to London, 
ib. ; composes Funeral Anthem, 
147 ; agrees to write operas for 
Heidegger, ib. ; produces Fara- 
viondo (1738), Serse, and Ales- 
sajidro Severo, 1 48; takes a 
benefit, ib. ; composes ^a«/, 149 ; 
his friendship with Jennens, 148- 
151 ; composes Israel in Egypt, 
151 ; produces Saul and Israel 
(1739), 152 ; Jupiter in Argos, 
153 ; and Ode for St. Cecilia's 
i^c^y^ 155 > composes L' Allegro 
(1740), 157 ; produces Imeiteo 
and Deidamia (1741), 158; his 
visit to Dublin, 160; leaves 
London, 161 ; stays at Chester, 
ib. ; arrives at Dublin, 162 ; his 
concerts there, 162, 165 ; 
rehearsal of Messiah (1742), 
166 ; production of Messiah, 
167; returns to London, 170; 
produces Samson (1743), 174; 
produces Messiah in London, 
177 ; writes Dettingen TeDeu/n, 
179; produces Semele (1744), 
179 ; holds rehearsal at Carlton 
House, 181 ; produces Joseph, 
ib. ; composes Belshazzar, 182 ; 
bitter feeling against him, 1S3 ; 
failure of his concerts, 1S5 ; 
produces Hercules (174S) and 
Belshazzar, ib. ; his health 
affected, ib. ; declared a bank- 
rupt, 187 ; produces Occasiottal 
Oratorio (1746), 191 ; znA Judas 
MaccabcEtis (1747), 192 ; Mo- 
rell's description of Handel's 
method of working, ib. ; 
Handel's music becomes 
fashionable, 194 ; he abandons 

subscription performances, ib. ; 
his meeting with Gluck, 195 ; 
Burney's experience of his 
impetuosity, 196 ; Handel and 
Frasi, 197 ; supposed noisiness 
of his music, 197 ; produces 
Alexander Balus (1748), 198; 
diXiA Joshua, ib. ; his opinion of 
"See, the conquering hero 
comes," 199 ; produces Susanna 
(ly^g) cLiid Solomon, 199; writes 
Fireworks Music, 200 ; his 
opinion of the "serpent," 202; 
his generosity to Foundling Hos- 
pital, 203 ; his concerts affected 
by earthquakes (1750), 204; 
produces Theodora, 205 ; 
Burney's description of Handel's 
smile, ib. ; composes Alceste 
and Choice of Hercules, ib. ; 
goes abroad, and is hurt in 
accident, 207 ; befriends 

Cuzzoni, ib. ; his eyesight fails, 
208 ; produces Jephtha (1752), 
208 ; compared to Pitt, 209 ; 
his growing blindness, 212 ; 
complete loss of sight (1753), 
ib. ; continues his concerts with 
Smith's assistance, 213; calls 
in Stanley's aid, 214; pecuniary 
success of his oratorios, 215 ; 
produces Triumph of Time and 
Truth, (1757), 215 ; revision of 
Solomon and Susanna {1759), 
216 ; his quarrel with Schmidt, 
ib. ; last illness, death, and 
funeral, 217 ; his personal 
appearance, 218 ; character, ib. ; 
and religious views, 219; his 
use of Siciliani, 228 ; Scarlatti's 
influence upon him, 228, 229 ; 
his recitative compared with 
Purcell's, 229 ; Steffani's and 
Bononcini's influence upon him, 
230, 237, 238 ; his Rinaldo 
compared with Gluck's Armida, 
231 ; his use of horns, 237, 239 ; 
his Admeto compared with Gluck's 
Iphigenia in Tauris, 242 ; his 
orchestration, 243, 277, 288, 
293) 316 ; his style influenced 
by Vinci and Hasse, 244 ; his 



interest in street-cries, 254 ; his 
oratorio style, 236, 261, 262 ; 
compared to Bach, 263-265, 285, 
298, 300 ; contemporary view 
of his music, 274 ; his allusions 
to bagpipes, 282, 314; his view 
of Christianity, 286 ; his view 
of chastity, 305 ; his lack of 
false pride, 315 ; his organ-play- 
ing, 333 ; compared with Beeth- 
oven, 335 ; his indebtedness to 
other composers, 344 

Operas and other Dramatic 

Admelo, 100, 242, 337 
Agrippina, yj note, 43, 46, 222, 

226-228, 260 
Alcesle, 206, 322 
A/chyinisf, The, 338 
Ahina, 137, 222, 231, 251, 252 
Alessandro, 98, 241, 242 
Alessattdro Severo, 148 
Almira, 22, 221, 224, 225, 228, 336 
Amadigi, 70, 233, 234, 235, 252 
Ariadne, 130, 134, 249, 250 
Ariodante, 134, 250, 251, 338 
Arminio, 140, 253 
Atalanta, 138, 252 
Berenice, 140, 253 
Deidainia, 158, 222, 254 
Ezio, 114, 246 

Farariiondo, 147 note, 148, 253 
Flavio, 95, 238 
Florida nte, 90, 237, 238 
Florindo nnd Daphne, 26 
Giulio Cesare, 95, 238, 239 
Giustino, 140, 222, 253 
Imeneo, 158, 165, 222, 254 
Lotario, iii, 112, 244, 245 
Muzio Scevola, 90, 237 
Nero, 23 
Orestes, 134 
Orlando, 1 19, 247-249 
Otione, 91, 238 
Partenope, 1 13, 244, 245 
Pastor Fido, 11, 64, 134, 226, 235 
Poro, 114, 245, 246 
Radamisto, 88, 222, 235-237, 253 
Riccardo, 105, 242 
Rinaldo, 57, 78, 225, 227, 228, 

230-233, 252, 346 

Operas and other Dramatic 

Works — {continued) 
Rodelinda, 96, 240, 241, 242, 243 
Rodrigo, 29, 225-227, 338 
Scipio, 96, 114, 241, 242 
Serse, 147 note, 148, 253 
Siila, 70, 235 
Si roe, 107, 243 
Sosarme, 114, 247 
Tamerlano, 96, 239 
Terpsichore, 134, 338 
Teseo, 64, 233, 234, 260 
Tolomeo, 107, 243 

Oratorios, Cantatas, etc. 

Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, 43, 228, 

232, 261, 269 
Acis and Galatea, 82, 83, II4, 1 17, 

255, 267, 269-270, 346 
Alexander Bahis, 198, 316, 317 
Alexander''s Feast, 136, 138, 165, 

1S6, 255, 274, 275 
Allegro edil Penseroso, II, 157, 162, 

164, 165, 255, 2S2, 283 
Athaliah, 127, 132, 136, 273, 274, 

Belshazzar, 182, 185, 187,312, 313 
Choice of Hercules, 216, 321, 322 
Deborah, 119, 120, 136, 254, 271, 

272, 273, 312, 337 
Elbing Cantata, 144 
Esther, 81, 82, 83, I14-I17, 136, 

165, 267-269, 271, 302,334 
Hercules, 185, 200, 309-312 
Israel in Egypt, 151, 152, 153, 190, 

266, 274, 278-281, 302,340-344 
Jephtha, 186 note, 208, 220, 228, 

Joseph, 181, 182, 308, 309, 313 
[osJma, 198, 199, 228, 266, 317, 

Judas Maccabcezts, 192-196, 198, 

205, 216, 269, 314, 315 
Jupiter in Argos, 153 
Messiah, The, 40, 161, 163, 166- 

171, 174, 177, 178, 200, 203, 

205-208, 217, 274, 284-301, 

302, 337 
Occasional Oratorio, 190, 191, 313, 

314, 337 
Ode for Queen Anne's Birthday, 
69, 262 



Oratorios, Cantatas, etc. — 

Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, 155, 165, 

2S1, 282 
Parnasso in Festa, 132, 274 
Passion, Brockes, 77, 262-264, 267, 

268, 272 
Passion, St. John, 21, 257 
Resun-ezione, La, 40, 227, 259-261 
Saul, 149, 152, 158, 275-278, 312 
Sa7nson, 174, 176, 177, 200, 202, 

205, 213, 254, 303-306 
Semele, 179, 180, 307, 308, 338 
Soloi?ion, 199,200,202,216, 318,319 
Susafuia, 199, 216, 318-320, 337 
Theodora, 205, 206, 320, 321 
Trionfo del Tempo, II, 40, 140, 215, 

225, 227, 261, 275, 324, 335 
Triumph of Time and Truth, The, 

215, 261, 275, 324, 325, 337 

Chamber Music 

Cantatas, 40, 43, 232 

Chamber duets, 62, 291, 292, 295 

French chansons, 43 

German songs, 62 

Harpsichord pieces, 62, 84, 327, 328 

Sonatas, 328, 330 

Spanish song, 43 

Trios, 6, 327, 329, 330 

Church Music 

Anthems — 

Chandos, 82, 264-266 
Coronation, 105, 270-272 
Dettingen, 179, 307 
Foundhng, 203 
Funeral, 147, 153, 275 
Wedding, 132, 138, 274, 275 

Dixit Dominus, 32, 229, 257 

Jubilate, Utrecht, 69, 262 

Laudate pueri (Halle), 13 

Laudate pueri {Rome), 32, 257 

JVisi Dominus, 257 

Te Deums — 
Chandos, 82, 266 
Dettingen, 179, 275, 307 
Utrecht, 69, 272, 307 

Orchestral Music 

Concertos — 
Grand, 332 

Orchestral Music — {continued) 

Hautboy, 62, 331, 332 

Organ, 136, 333-335 
Fireworks Music, 200-202, 336 
Minuets, 104 
Overtures, 336, 337 
Water Music, 73, 335 

Doubtful Works 
Ack, Hen , mich armen Siinder, 


Erlosung des Volks Gottes, Die, 13 
Magnificat (Erba), 45 note 
Te Detim (Urio), 45 
Ungerathene Sohn, Der, 13 

Handel, Valentine, 2 
Hankey, Sir T., 205 
Hanover, Handel's visits to, 49, 62, 

76, III 
Harcourt, Lord, letter on English 

musical taste, 114 
" Harmonious Blacksmith, The," 84, 


Harmony in an Uproar, 128 

Harris, James, 185, 186 7iote 

Harris, Thomas, 186 note, 188 

Harris, William, 186 note, 188, 
190, 191 

Hasse, Johann Adolph, his opinion 
of Carestini, 130; his influence 
upon Handel, 244 

Hautboy concertos (Handel), 62, 
331, 332 

Hawkins, Sir John, description of 
Handel at Hanover, 49 ; and at 
Burlington House, 67 ; his 
opinion of " See, the conquering 
hero comes," 199 ; and of 
Handel's religious views, 219 

Hawkins, Letitia Matilda, her opinion 
of Beard, 175 ; her story of " See, 
the conquering hero comes," 198 

Haydn, Franz Joseph, his opinion 
oi Joshua, 199 

Haym, Nicola, 64, 86 

Hearne, Thomas, 127 

Heidegger, John James, undertakes 
management of opera, 65 ; his 
career, 65 ; writes libretto of 
Amadigi, 70 ; his partnership 
with Handel, 108 ; deserts 



Handel, 126; Handel writes 

operas for, 147 
Herbert, Lady Henrietta, marries 

Beard, 175 
He rcu/es (Ha.r\de\), 185, 200, 309-312 
Hervey, Lord, his description of 

the rival operas, 131 
Highwaymen, 54, 83 
Hill, Aaron, 57 

Hill, John, sings in Messiah, 68 
Holmes, William, invites Handel to 

Oxford, 126 
Horns, Handel's use of, 237, 239 
Hughes, John, 60, 63 
Humphreys, Samuel, 83, 116 
Hurlothrumbo (Johnson), 1 12, 1 13 
Hydaspes (Mancini), 56, 57 

Idomenco (Mozart), 253 
Ivieneo (Handel), 158, 165, 222, 254 
Innocent xi, Pope, 258 
Innocent xii. Pope, 258 
Iphigenia in Tauris (Gluck), 242 
Is7-ael in Egypt (Handel), 1 51-153, 
190, 266, 274, 278-281 

James, the Old Pretender, 109 

Janson, 161 

"Jenkins's ear," war of, 154, 178 

Jennens, Charles, writes libretto of 
Said, 149 ; his friendship with 
Handel, il>. ; his character, 150; 
dissatisfaction with music of 
Messiah, 178 ; writes libretto 
of Belshazzar, 1 82, 183, 312 ; 
his arrangement of U Allegro, 
157, 164, 282; his Messiah 
libretto, 149, 287, 288 

Jephtha (Handel), 186 note, 208, 
220, 228, 322-324 

Jews, patronise y/<.iaj Maccabceus, 197 

Johann Adolf, Duke of Saxe- 
Weissenfels, 3, 5 

Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine, 
Handel's visits to, 49, 61 ; his 
character, 49 ; correspondence 
with Elector of Hanover and 
Electress Sophia, 51 

Johnson, Samuel, produces Htirlo- 
thriunbo, 112 

Joseph (Handel), 181, 182, 308, 309, 

Joshua (Handel), 198, 199, 228, 

266, 317, 318 
Jubilate, Utrecht (Handel), 69, 262 
Judas Maccabctus (Handel), 192-196, 

198, 205, 216, 269, 314, 315 
Jupiter (Sheridan), 197 
Jupiter in Argos (Handel), 153 

Keiser, Reinhard, at Hamburg, 16 ; 
Handel succeeds him at Ham- 
burg opera, 21 ; gives libretto of 
Alinira to Handel, 22 ; resets 
Almira, 23 ; his music compared 
with Handel's, 224 ; his influence 
upon Handel, 261, 263 

Kerl, Johann Caspar, 280 

Kielmansegg, Baron, meets Handel 
in Venice, 48 ; reconciles Handel 
to George i, 71 

Kielmansegg, Baroness, 71 

Kinnoull, George, Earl of, his 
anecdote of J/(j5j/a^, 177 

Knatchbull, Sir William, 164 

La Feve, Mile, 57 

Lambe, William, sings in Messiah, 

1 68, 170 
Lampe, John Frederick, 141 
Laiidatepueri [W^TiA^i), 13, 32, 257 
Leibniz, G. W. von. Baron, his 
friendship with Sophia Charlotte 
of Prussia, 8 ; praises Caroline 
of Ansbach's singing, 62 
L'Epine, Margherita de, 55 
Lincoln's Inn Fields, duels fought in, 
53; theatre in, 106, 126, 130, 
131, 134, 155, 156 
London, Plandel's first visit to, 52 ; 
social conditions in, ib. ; opera 
in, 55 ; concerts in, 59 ; Handel's 
second visit to, 64 
Lotario (Handel), iii, 112, 244, 245 
Lotti, Antonio, 131, 346 
Louisa, Princess, Handel composes 

lessons for, 84 
Lovat, Simon, Lord, his trial, 192 
Loves of Ergasto, The (Greber), 55 
Liibeck, Handel's visit to, 17, 18 
Luxborough, Lady, describes her 
steward's visit to Judas Macca- 
baus, 194 ; refers to Handel's 
interest in street cries, 254 



Maclaine, accompanies Handel to 
Dublin, 162 

Maclaine, Mrs., sings in Messiah, 
169, 170 

MacSwiney, Owen, manages Queen's 
Theatre, 64 ; flies from England, 
ib ; conducts season of English 
opera, 85 

Magnificat (Erba), 45 note 

Mainwaring, John, references to his 
biography of Handel, 3-5, 9, 10, 
20, 24, 25, 29, 30, 37, 41, 46 
note, 90 7iote, 149, i6i 

Manchester, Charles, Duke of, meets 
Handel in Venice, 39 ; corres- 
pondence with Vanbrugh, 55, 56 

Marchesini, sings for Handel, 148 

Marlborough, Henrietta, Duchess of, 
patronises Bononcini, 93 

Marlborough, Sarah, Duchess of, 
her description of the Duke of 
Montagu, 66 7iote ; her story 
of George 11, 146 

Martinelli, Vincenzo, describes Lady 
Brown's parties, 184 

Mason, John, sings in Messiah, 168 

Mattei, Filippo, collaborates in Mitzio 
Scevola, 90 

Mattheson, Johann, meets Handel 
at Hamburg, 16 ; production of 
his Cleopatra, 19 ; duel with 
Handel, ib. ; criticises Handel's 
John Passion, 2i ; sings in 
Handel's Almira, 22 ; sets 
Brockes's Passion, 77 ; his note 
on Handel's Passion, 77 note ; 
Handel refuses to contribute to 
his Ehren-Pforte, 83 ; his story of 
Handel's abduction ofa nun, 1 10 ; 
criticises Handel's borrowings, 

Merighi, Antonia, Mrs. Delany's 

description of, III; sings at 

Haymarket, 139 
Merlini, Annibale, his letter to 

Ferdinand dei Medici, 32, 339 
Messiah, The, 40, 161, 163, 1 66-171, 

174, 177, 178, 200, 203, 205- 

208, 217, 274, 284-301, 302, 

Michaelsen, Johann Friedrich, 63, 

Middlesex, Lord, manages concerts, 
147 note ; manages opera, 165 ; 
collapse of his management, 
. ^83 

Milan, Handel's visit to, 109 

Miller, James, writes libretto of 
Joseph, 181 

Milton, John, his V Allegro adapted 
by Jennens, 157, 282; his 
Samson Agonistes adapted by 
Hamilton, 174, 303 ; Handel 
compared with, 212 

Minuets (Handel), 104 

Mirandola, Duke of, 339 

Mohocks, 53 

Montagnana, Antonio, 121, 126, 134, 
139, 148, 246 

Montagu, Elizabeth, letter on the 
earthquake, 204 

Montagu, John, Duke of, his taste 
for practical joking, 66 ; plays 
trick on Heidegger, ib. ; Joseph 
dedicated to him, 182 

Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, her 
description of court at Hanover, 
76 ; account of Beard's marriage, 


Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, 
Baron de, his visit to England, 

Morell, Thomas, writes libretto of 
Judas MaccahcEu.s, 192 ; his 
description of Handel's method 
of working, ib. ; writes libretto 
of Alexander Bahis, 198; 
libretto of Solomon attributed 
to him, 199 ; writes libretto of 
Theodora, 205, 320 ; his conver- 
sation with Handel on it, ib. ; 
translates Triumph of Time and 
7>i<//z, 215, 324; Handel resents 
his criticisms, 315 

Mozart, W. A. von, his Idomeneo, 
253 ; tribute to Handel, 275 ; 
additional accompaniments to 
Messiah, 289. 291-293, 296, 
299 ; his Entfiihrung, 320 

Muffat, A. G., 346 

Muzio Scevola (Handel and others), 
90. 237 

Naples, Handel's visit to, 41 



Neal's Music'jHall, Dublin, 162 note, 

Nero (Handel), 23 
Newton, Sir Isaac, his opinion of 

opera, 88 
Nicolini, 56, 58, 70 
Nisi Donihitis {\\ilt\Aq\), 257 
Nuviitore (Porta), 88 

Occasional Oratorio (Handel), 190, 

191, 313, 314, 337 
Ode for Queeji Anne's Birthday 

(Handel), 69, 262 
Ode for St. Cecilia! s Day (Handel), 

155, 165, 281, 282 
Ombrosi, Luca, 31 
Opera, Handel's treatment of, 221 
Oratorio, Handel's treatment of, 256 ; 

its rise and development, 257- 

Orazio (Tosi), 43 note 
Orchestration, Handel's, 239, 243, 

245, 277, 288, 293, 316 
Orestes (Handel), 134 
Organ, Handel's organ-playing, 18 

note, 145, 213, 333 
Organ Concertos (Handel), 136,333- 

Ottoboni, Cardinal, Handel plays at 
his house, 33, 339; his Academy, 
33 ; description of one of his 
musical entertainments, 34; 
Handel's contest with D. Scar- 
latti at his house, 38 ; Resur- 
rezione and Trionfo del Tempo 
produced under his auspices, 40 ; 
Steflfani and Handel meet at his 
house, 44 ; Handel visits him in 
1729, 109 
Overtures (Handel), 336, 337 
Oxford, Handel's visit to, 126 ; 
Athaliah produced at, 137 ; 
Samson performed at, 176 

Pallandt, Baron von, 39 

Parnasso itt Festa{aznAe\), 132, 274 

Partenope (Handel), 113, 244, 245 

Pasquiti (Fielding), 139 

Pasquini, Bernardo, 35 

Passion, Brockes (Handel), 77, 262- 

264, 267, 268, 272 
Passion, Matthew (Bach), 285 

Passion, St. John (Handel), 21, 257 

Pastor Fido, II (Handel), 64, 134, 
226, 23s 

Pellegrini, Valeriano, sings in Agrip- 
pina, 48 ; in Pastor Fido, 64 

Pembroke, Mary, Countess of, sup- 
ports Cuzzoni, 99 ; her letter to 
Lady Sundon, loi ; epigram on, 

Penelope (Galuppi), 165 

Pepusch, John Christopher, plays at 
Britton's concerts, 60 ; musical 
director at Canons, 81 ; dis- 
placed by Handel, 82 ; arranges 
music of Beggar^ s Opera, 106 ; 
satirised in Harmony in an 
Uproar, 129 

Peri, Jacopo, 257 

Perti, Giacomo Antonio, 28, 36 

Peterborough, Charles, Earl of, his 
attachment to Anastasia Robin- 
son, 71,91; horsewhips Senesino, 


Pilkington, Sir Lionel, letter on 
Handel's Italian journey, 109 

Pirker, Marianne, 207 

Pirro e Demeirio (Scarlatti), 56, 57 

Pitt, William, Earl of Chatham, 
compared with Handel, 209 

Polly (Gay), 112 

Polwarth, Patrick, Baron, discovers 
Handel's early trios, 6 

Pope, Alexander, meets Handel at 
Burlington House, 67 ; invited 
to Chiswick by Lord Burlington, 
68 ; satirises Duke of Chandos, 
79 ; libretto of Esther attributed 
to, 83, 267 ; his lines on Figg, 
the prize-fighter, 103 ; allusion 
to Handel in Dunciad, 173 

Poro (Handel), 114, 245, 246 

Porpora, Niccola Antonio, appointed 
musical director of " Opera of 
the Nobility," 126 ; produces 
his Ariadne, 130; David, 136; 
and Festa cTIineneo, 139 

Porta, Giovanni, production of his 
Numitore, 88 

Pratolino, Prince Ferdinand's court 
at, 27 ; Handel's visit to, 28 ; 
Prince Ferdinand's illness at, 



Prevost, Abbe, refers to Handel's 
refusal of a degree at Oxford, 
127 note ; describes Farinelli 
furore, 134; refers to Mile. 
Salle, 137; defends Handel's 
borrowings, 347, 348 

Prior, Matthew, his epigram on 
Britton, 61 

Prize-fights, 103 

Programme Music, Handel's employ- 
ment of, 251, 312, 313, 337, 338 

Protoparentum Crimen et Fcena, 259 

Puliti, Leto, 29 

Purcell, Henry, his treatment of 
recitative compared with 
Handel's, 229 ; possible in- 
fluence of Dido and ALneas on 
Handel, 246 ; his influence on 
Handel, 262, 319, 321 

Queensberry, Duchess of, 112 
Quin, Dr., his account of Handel's 
reception in Dublin, 167 

Radamisto (Handel), 88, 222, 235- 

237> 253 
Regnard, J. F., his criticism of opera 

at Hamburg, 15 
Reinholt, Thomas, 191 
Resurrezione, La (Handel), 40, 227, 

Rheingold, Das (Wagner), 277 
Riccardo (Handel), 105, 242 
Rich, John, 176, 206, 338 
Riemschneider, iii 
Rinaldo (Handel), 57, 78, 225, 227, 

228, 230-233, 252, 346 
Robinson, Anastasia, 71. 91 
Robinson, Percy, references to his 

Handel and his Orbit, 45 7ioie, 

77 note, 345, 346, 348 
Rochetti, 117 
Rockstro, W, S., references to his 

biography of Handel, 20, 105, 

162 note, 191, 223 
Rodelinda (Handel), 96, 240-243 
Rodrigo (Handel), 29, 225-227, 

338 . . 

Rolli, Paolo, his epigram on Ariosti, 
9 note ; appointed poet to Royal 
Academy of ^Tusic. 86 ; writes 
libretto of Z>(?z^a;«/a, 158 

Rome, Handel's visits to, 32, 40, 44, 
109 ; oratorio in, 258, 259 

Roner, Andreas, 63 

Rosamond (Clayton), 57 

Rossi, Giacomo, 57, 64 

Roubiliac, L. F., his statue of 
Handel erected at Vauxhall, 
149 ; his monument to Handel 
in Westminster Abbey, 218 

Royal Academy of Music, foundation 
of, 85 ; collapse, 107 

Ruspoli, Marquis di, Handel meets 
him at Rome, 35 ; stays in his 
house, 40 

Russel, 185 

Rutland, Duke of, 214 

Salle, Mile., 134, 137, 250, 338 

Samso7i (Handel), 174, 176, 177, 
200, 202, 205, 213, 254, 303- 

Santayana, George, his Interpreta- 
tions of Poetry and Religion 
quoted, 286 

Saul (Handel), 149, 152, 158, 275- 
278, 312 

Saussure, Cesar de, describes female 
prize - fight, 103 ; describes 
George ii's coronation, 105 

Scarlatti, Alessandro, his friendship 
with Ferdinand dei Medici, 28 ; 
meets Handel, 35 ; admitted to 
Arcadian Academy, ib. ; de- 
scription of his performance, 
36 ; leaves Rome for Naples, 
41 ; directs musical entertain- 
ment at Naples, 42 ; his Pirro e 
Demetrio produced in London, 
56, 57 ; his influence on Handel, 
228 ; his oratorios, 258 

Scarlatti, Domenico, meets Handel 
at Venice, 38 ; his "contest with 
Handel at Rome, ib. 

Scheibe, Johann Adolph, criticises 
Handel's borrowings, 347 

Schmidt, Johann Christoph, brought 
to England by Handel, 77 ; 
accompanies Handel to Italy, 
129; his quarrel with Handel 
216 ; and reconciliation, 217 

Schoelcher, Victor, reference to his 
biography of Handel, 191 



Schulenburg, Ehrengard Melusine 
von, Duchess of Kendal, 71 

Schulenburg, Melusine von, Countess 
of Chesterfield, 87, 180 

Scipio (Handel), 96, 114, 241, 

Scots, Handel's dislike of, 281 

Semele (Handel), 179, 180, 307, 30S, 

Senesino, sings at Venice, 37 ; 
engaged by Handel, 86 ; 
Burney's description of his voice, 
89 note ; sings in Floridante, 
90 ; in Giulio Cesare, 95 ; 
is horsewhipped by Lord 
Peterborough, ib. ; his triumphs 
in Handel's operas, 109 ; 
Handel refuses to engage him, 
no; re-engaged by Handel, 
114; sings in Foro, ib. ; in 
Orlando, 119, 248; deserts 
Handel, 126; criticised by 
Arbuthnot, 130; sings at King's 
Theatre, 134 ; his admiration 
for FarineUi, 135 

Serpent, Handel's use of, 202 

Serse (Handel), 147 note, 148, 253 

Servandoni, Chevalier, 200, 202, 

Shaftesbury, Anthony, Earl of, his 
biographical sketch quoted, 108, 
119, 141, 145, 147 note; 
Handel's message to, 164 ; his 
letters referring to Handel, 188, 

Shaftesbury, Susannah, Countess of, 
letter about Handel, 185 ; 
present at performance of 
Sttsanna, 199 

Sharp, Samuel, consulted by Handel, 
212, 214 

She Stoops to Conquer (Goldsmith), 

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, satirises 
Handel in Jupiter, 197 ; refers 
to Ariadne minuet in Critic, 

Shield, William, his story of Haydn, 

Siciliani, Handel's employment of 

Silla (Handel), 70, 235 

Siroe (Handel), 107, 243 

Smith, John Christopher, befriended 

by Handel, 77 ; assists Handel 

at his concerts, 213 ; reconciles 

his father to Handel, 217 
Smock-runs, 103 
Smollett, Tobias, refers to Handel 

in his Advice, 185 ; writes 

Alceste, 206 
Smyth, James, 215, 217 
Solomon (Handel), 199, 200, 202, 

216, 318, 319 
Sonatas (Handel), 32S, 330 
Songs (Handel) — 
French, 43 
German, 62 
Spanish, 43 
Sophia, Electress of Hanover, 

Handel introduced to, 49 ; 

Elector Palatine's letter to, 

Sophia Charlotte, Queen of Prussia, 

her court at Berlin, 7 ; her 

friendship with Leibniz, 8 ; 

her influence upon Caroline of 

Ansbach, 62 
Sosarme, (Handel) 114, 247 
Spectator, The, satirises Italian opera, 

56 ; attacks Rinaldo, 58 
Stanley, John, assists Handel at his 

concerts, 214 
Steele, Sir Richard, praises Nicolini, 

56 ; satirises Kinaldo, 57 
Steffani, Agostino, meets Handel in 

Rome, 44 ; leaves Italy, 46 

note ; welcomes Handel to 

Hanover, 49 ; his death, 109 ; 

his influence on Handel, 230 
Stella, Giorgio, 48 
Strada del P6, Signer, 141, 148 
Strada del P6, Anna, no, iii, 114, 

119, 126, 133, 140 
Street-cries, Handel's interest in, 


Stukely, William, records a meeting 

with Newton, 88 
Sullivan, Sir Arthur, his parody of 

Handel, 230 
Sundon, Lady, Lady Pembroke's 

letter to, loi 
Susanna (Handel), 199, 216, 318- 

320, 337 



Synge, Edward, Bishop of Elphin, 
his opinion of Messiah, 171 

Talbot, Catherine, her opinion of 

Samsoti, 176 ; disapproves of 

Messiah in a theatre, 177 note ; 

her criticism of Belshazzar, 

Tavierlano (Handel), 96, 239 
Tarquini, Vittoria, 31 
Tatler, The, satirises Italian opera, 

56 ; attacks Rinaldo, 58 
Taust, Dorothea, marries George 

Handel, 2 ; her character, 1 1 ; 

Handel's visits to, 26, 49, 63, 

iio: her death, no 
Taylor, Sedley, 345 
Te Dcum (Handel) — 
Chandos, 82, 266 
Dettingen, 179, 275, 307 
Urio, 45 note 
Utrecht, 69, 262, 307 
Telemann, Georg Philipp, meets 

Handel at Halle, 12 ; and at 

Weissenfels, ib. 
Terpsichore (Handel), 134, 338 
Teseo (Handel), 64, 233, 234, 

Tesi, Vittoria, 30 
Theodora (Handel), 205, 206, 320, 

Thornyris, 65 
Thoresby, Ralph, 61 
Tolojiieo (Handel), 107, 243 
Trionfo del Tempo, 11 (Handel), 40, 

140, 215, 225, 227, 261, 275, 

324> 335 
Trios (Handel), 6, 327, 329, 330 
Tristan mid Isolde (Wagner), 281 
Triumph of Titne and Truth, The, 

215, 261, 275, 324, 325, 337 
Tunbridge Wells, Handel's visits to, 

138, 188, 216 

Urio Te Deutn, 45 note, 345 
Utrecht Te Deiwt and Jubilate 
(Handel), 69 

Valeriano. See Pellegrini 

Vanbrugh, Sir John, builds Queen's 
Theatre, 55 ; his correspondence 
with Duke of Manchester, 56 

Vauxhall Gardens, Roubiliac's statue 

of Handel erected at, 149 ; 

rehearsal of Handel's Fireworks 

Music at, 202 
Venice, Handel's visits to, 36, 46, 

109, no 
Vernon, Mrs., entertains Handel in 

Dublin, 168 
Vinci, Leonardo, his influence on 

Handel, 244 

Wagner, Richard, his giants in Das 
Rheingold compared with 
Handel's Goliath, 277 ; Tristan 
compared with Israel in Egypt, 
281 ; Lohengrin prelude antici- 
pated by Handel, 294 

Wake, William, Archbishop of 
Canterbury, 105 

Walpole, Catherine, Lady, 99 

Walpole, Horace, his description of 
a highway robbery, 54 ; of 
Baroness Kielmansegg, 72 note ; 
his observations on Saiyison, 
174, 176; describes Lady 
Brown's parties, 184 ; refers to 
Handel's paralysis, 187 7iote ; to 
Jacobite rebellion, 190 ; de- 
scribes celebration of Peace of 
Aix-la-Chapelle, 201 ; mentions 
earthquakes, 204 

Walpole, Sir Horatio, lampooned by 
Craftsman, 120 ; his remark on 
Duke of Devonshire, 160 

Walpole, Sir Robert, lampooned by 
Craftsman, 120 ; national revolt^ 
against his policy, 154; char- 
acteristics of his era, 209 

Walsh, John, 346 

Ward, Edward, describes Britton's 
concerts, 60, 61 

Ward, Joseph, sings in Messiah, 

Warren, Dr., 217 

Water Music (Handel), 73, 335 

Water-Parties, 73 

Wedding Anthems (Handel), 132, 
138, 274, 275 

Weissenfels, Duke Johann Adolf 
moves his court to, 3 ; Handel's 
visits to, 4, 12 



Wentwoith, William, Lord, his 

anecdote of George ii, 146; 

letter relating to Handel, 152 
Wesley, John, his influence on 

English society, 211 
Westmorland, Lady, supports 

Handel, 180 
Whitchurch, 80, 81 

Wiel, Taddeo, 46 

Wyche, John, Handel gives music 
lessons to his son, 20 

Zachow, Friedrich Wilhelm, 

instructs Handel, 5 ; Handel 
befriends his widow, 77 

Zappi, Giambattista, 36 

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